Three alumni honored by UGA’s Terry College of Business

Three alumni honored by UGA’s Terry College of Business

Kent Hannon | Jun. 26, 2009

Two Atlanta-area businessmen and an Athens entrepreneur were honored by the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business at its 2009 Alumni Awards and Gala in Atlanta.

Two of the honorees — banker Kessel Stelling Jr. of Marietta and accountant John McMullan of Atlanta — received the Terry College's Distinguished Alumni Award in recognition of their career achievements, community service, and level of involvement with their alma mater. Davis Knox of Athens, who co-founded one of the nation's fastest-rising food service companies, received the college's Outstanding Young Alumni Award.

Stelling, who grew up in Augusta, Ga., is president and CEO of Bank of North Georgia, which is headquartered in Alpharetta. He is also Synovu' regional CEO for the Atlanta market. He graduated from the Terry College in 1978 with a degree in finance. He is also a 1988 graduate of the School of Banking of the South at Louisiana State University.

McMullan, who grew up in Athens, is CEO of Atlanta-based Camden Real Estate. He received two degrees from the Terry College — a bachelor's degree in accounting in 1958 and an MBA in 1960.

Knox, who also grew up in Augusta, is president of Fire & Flavor, which markets a variety of gourmet cooking products. He received a bachelor's degree in finance from the Terry College in 1998.

The Terry College has been presenting its alumni awards since 1964. This year's alumni awards were presented April 25 at the Intercontinental Buckhead Hotel in Atlanta.


Kessel D. Stelling Jr. began his banking career with the First Railroad and Banking Co. in Augusta, where he worked for 11 years. He served as senior vice president of the First National Bank of Cobb County from 1985-90 and then as executive vice president of the Chattahoochee Bank in Marietta from 1990-94.

He then took a brief sabbatical from banking to serve his community as interim CEO of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce. While there, Stelling hatched the idea to create a true community bank like the one he had grown up with in Augusta. He and his business partner, Atlanta realtor John Williams, bought the financially troubled Cobb American Bank and changed the name to Riverside Bank in 1996. Stelling served as chairman and CEO of Riverside Bancshares Inc. and Riverside Bank, which was the largest and oldest community bank headquartered in Cobb County. In March 2006, Riverside Bancshares Inc. was sold to the Synovus Financial Corp., headquartered in Columbus, Ga. As a result of the sale, Riverside Bank merged with Bank of North Georgia to form one bank under the Bank of North Georgia name. As Bank of North Georgia's president and CEO, Stelling currently oversees $5.8 billion in assets. In 2008, he was promoted to Synovus' regional CEO for the Atlanta market.

Stelling is an accomplished business and community leader whose leadership abilities and dedication to service have benefited many civic organizations. He is the Sixth Congressional District Representative to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. He is also a member of the Dean's Advisory Council at the Terry College of Business. Stelling is a trustee of Kennesaw State University, and a board member of the Cobb Community Foundation, Wellstar Health Systems, and The Georgian Club. He is a member of the board of directors of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and served as chairman in 2008. Stelling is also a member of the board of directors of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, where he served as chairman in 1998 and 2006.

Over the years, Stelling has also served as chairman of the United Way of Cobb County, chairman of the Regional Business Coalition, president of the Cobb YMCA, and chairman of the Cumberland Community Improvement District. The Marietta Daily Journal named him Cobb County Citizen of the Year in 2003, and Georgia Trend named him one of the "100 Most Influential Georgians" in 2009.

Stelling and his wife, Carol Cusick Stelling, who is a 1980 alumna of UGA, have two children — Chris, who received a finance degree from the Terry College in 2007, and Drew, who is a rising senior at Terry. Stelling's late father, Kessel Sr., graduated from the Terry College in 1945 and served as city controller of Augusta until his retirement.

John F. McMullan is chief executive officer of Camden Real Estate, an Atlanta-based company that he founded in 1990. He also serves as a director of Life Care Centers of America Inc., which operates more than 280 skilled nursing, assisted living, and retirement centers in 28 states. He has been affiliated with Life Care since its inception in 1976.

Previous CEO positions McMullan has held include SMS Investment Associates Inc. and McMullan & Co. accounting firm.

During the 1960s, McMullan was an assistant professor of tax and accounting theory at both Georgia State University and the University of South Florida. He also served as a senior accountant at Price Waterhouse.

McMullan is a trustee of UGA's Arch Foundation and an emeritus trustee of the University of Georgia Foundation. His professional affiliations include the American Institute of CPAs, the Georgia Society of CPAs, and the National Conference of CPA Practitioners, of which he is a former chairman.

McMullan's mother was one of 10 children, all of whom graduated from college. His father, Thomas Leverette McMullan graduated from UGA in 1929 with a degree in agricultural economics. He was a Newton County extension agent, as well as a district agent for the UGA Cooperative Extension Service.

McMullan is a member of Sigma Chi, and he was instrumental in rebuilding the fraternity house on the UGA campus. He is also a past president of the Touchdown Club of Atlanta.


Davis Knox is president of Athens-based Fire & Flavor, which in 2008 was ranked No. 8 by Inc. magazine among the nation's fastest-rising food and beverage companies.

Born and raised in Augusta, Knox has held managing positions in several service companies, including Gorsuch Outfitters in Colorado and Air Serv, an aviation services firm in Atlanta.

With his zest for entrepreneurship, Knox found a perfect partner in his wife, Gena Neely Knox, a landscape architecture graduate from UGA who started working for her mother's catering business when she was in elementary school. In 2003, they co-founded Fire & Flavor, a leading marketer and producer of innovative and fresh concepts for grilling and flavoring foods. Started in their home, the company has evolved into a highly successful business whose products are sold in 10,000 retail stores and 4,000 restaurants. As president of Fire & Flavor, Knox is responsible for marketing, operations, and business development, as well as some sales.

An avid fly fisherman, hunter, and outdoorsman, Knox is involved in a number of social and community organizations. He is a Generation C board member with The Nature Conservancy, a Ducks Unlimited committee member with the Atlanta chapter. He also sponsors ongoing support for Trout Unlimited, Quail Unlimited, and Outdoors Without Limits, which is dedicated to providing outdoor recreational experiences for the disabled. He is a former member of the Terry College Young Alumni Board and an active member of the Athens First United Methodist Church.

The Terry College of Business Alumni Board of Directors selects the alumni award winners from nominations submitted to the board. Nominations for the 2009 alumni awards are due by July 31, 2009. More information on the awards criteria and nomination process is available at