News Release

For media information, contact:
Zaundra Brown
Director of Public Relations and Information
404.297.9522, ext. 1757


Bravery is Key to Success, Financial industry Icon Suzanne Shank tells GPTC's 2016 Graduates

DeKalb County - July 06, 2016

Dr. Jabari Simama, President, Georgia Piedmont Technical College, recently welcomed Ms. Suzanne Shank, Chairwoman, CEO & Co-Founder of Siebert Brandford Shank & Co., L.L.C., one of the nation’s top municipal bond underwriting firms, as the college’s 2016 commencement speaker. 

“Ms. Shank will be the first to tell you that she benefitted from having a strong mentor in her life,” Dr. Simama said.  “She went on to found her company, which is one of the top municipal bond underwriting firms in our nation, with her mentor, and in doing so became the first African- American woman to lead a publicly traded financial services institution,” Dr. Simama stated.  

Speaking directly to the graduates, Shank shared aspects of her success.  She credited having a mother who was a teacher as a strong influence in her life.  “My mother began reading to me at age three, which sparked a lifelong curiousness.  It’s because of the support I received from both my parents that I decided to earn my bachelor’s degree from Georgia Tech, and later, my master’s degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania,” she said. 

Shank recounted some of her professional experiences that presented challenges during the Great Recession, which began in 2006 and ended in 2009.  She told the audience that bravery was the quality that enabled her to guide the firm through those tough economic times, and she encouraged Georgia Piedmont’s graduates to summon bravery whenever they encounter life’s trials.   

Following Shank’s keynote address, Ms. Sadie Dennard, Chair, Georgia Piedmont Technical College Board of Directors, joined Dr. Simama at the podium to present the Presidential Sankofa Award, the college’s premier honorary award, to Ms. Shank. 

“We at Georgia Piedmont Technical College present the Presidential Sankofa Award to men and women who have attained the highest level of accomplishment in their professions,” said Dr. Simama.  The concept for the award originated with Dr. Simama, in support of his vision that all people have a moral obligation to help those who are less fortunate.    Shank was praised for embodying the spirit of “giving back” through her civic and charitable activities.     

Attendees also had an opportunity to hear from the college’s EAGLE and GOAL award recipients.  In 2016, Georgia Piedmont student Justin Bates was selected as first runner-up in the statewide Exceptional Adult Georgian in Literacy Education (EAGLE) competition.  The EAGLE competition recognizes those students who have demonstrated superior achievement in adult education classes and programs.  LaShonda Jenkins, another Georgia Piedmont student, was tapped to participate in the statewide 2016 Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) contest.  The GOAL program recognizes the best students from each of the state’s technical colleges and one Board of Regents college with a technical division.    

Addressing the graduates, Dr. Simama said, “We are so very proud of you.  Today is your day---the day that you all have worked to achieve throughout your academic career is realized.  Rejoice in your victory,” he stated.  “Thank you, family and friends, for supporting your loved ones during this journey.  You are a witness to the great things that are happening at this college,” he concluded.         

Degrees, diplomas and certificates were conferred from the following areas:  Business Information Systems; Education and New Media; Health and Professional Services; Industrial Technologies; and Public Safety and Security.  Students who earned their General Educational Development (GED) credential also were recognized. 

Georgia Piedmont’s 2016 commencement ceremony was held at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta.         

# # #

About Georgia Piedmont Technical College
Established in 1961, Georgia Piedmont Technical College (GPTC) is one of the top technical colleges in Georgia. As a student-centered institution, GPTC prepares individuals with the skills necessary to succeed in a rapidly changing, global economy. In August 2016, Georgia Piedmont was ranked among the top ten technical colleges in terms of enrollment by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. GPTC’s graduation rate is more than 74.3 percent, and its graduates secure employment at a level resulting in a 98.7 percent placement rate. With nearly 4,000 students, Georgia Piedmont’s adult education program is among the largest in the state. The college has 12 learning centers in DeKalb, Newton, Rockdale and Morgan counties. As set forth in its student catalog, Georgia Piedmont Technical College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, national or ethnic origin, sex, religion, disability, age, political affiliation or belief, genetic information, veteran status, or citizenship status (except in those special circumstances permitted or mandated by law). Contact Lisa Peters, the ADA Coordinator, at 404/297-9522, ext. 1154, or at the main DeKalb campus, 495 N. Indian Creek Drive, Clarkston, GA 30021 Room A-170; or Dr. Debra Gordon, the Title IX Coordinator, at 404/297-9522, ext. 1176, or at the main DeKalb campus, 495 N. Indian Creek Drive, Clarkston, GA 30021 Room A-103 for assistance. For more information about our graduation rates and other important program information, please visit our website at

A unit of the Technical College System of Georgia.