Although Georgia Southern alumnus Dennette Thornton is one of several thousand True Blue fans living in the Atlanta, Ga., area, her dedication to the University is a way of life that has overlapped with her love of athletics and a career as a senior account executive for the Atlanta Braves.
As president of the Atlanta Eagle Club, this athletic dynamo has impacted thousands of Georgia Southern alumni by effectively leading a network of Eagle Clubs that stretch from Atlanta to Macon. “I want to keep everybody involved and connected to Georgia Southern,” she said, “and there are at least 10,000 people in these various clubs.”
That includes planning annual area sporting event outings for alumni throughout the year, which include the Braves, Hawks and Thrashers. Last year, alumni gathered for a tailgate at the Georgia Tech vs. Georgia Southern baseball game, and a large contingent of fans attended the Georgia State basketball game to support the Eagles. The remainder of the bi-monthly socials consist of networking opportunities at The Twisted Taco restaurant in Buckhead, which is owned by alumnus Rick Seaman. “These meetings are a great way to reach out and connect with other alumni,” said Thornton, “and we are always trying to find different things to do. In fact, some of our athletic coaches also visit as guest speakers.”
Thornton’s love of athletics reaches back to her high school days when she played basketball and softball, which ultimately led to her sport management degree from Georgia Southern. As an undergraduate, she gained experience from the sidelines working as an equipment manager for the football team. “It was like a fulltime job,” she says. “We were at practice every day, setting up drills, making sure all of the equipment was ready to go in the stadium lockers, even putting air in the footballs.”
After graduation, Thornton began working with the Braves in 2002, handling group and suite sales for companies such as Coca-Cola, Georgia Pacific and Georgia Power. “These clients plan group outings every year and each event is unique. It can range from 16 to 60 people for a small group to more than 4,000, and the group tickets can range from an overall price of $200 to $10,000,” she said. Some of the specific arrangements that Thornton manages include having a Braves team player visit a private suite to sign autographs, and also allowing guests to go on the field during batting practice. Perhaps one of the most memorable experiences for Thornton – out of the season’s 83 home games – is when she runs the bases at the annual Atlanta Braves employee softball game held on Turner Field.
Thornton, her husband Richard and young sons Avery and Connor travel faithfully to Paulson Stadium to watch the Eagles, and even though the football and baseball seasons overlap, she rarely misses a home game. In a 24-hour time period, Thornton has worked at Turner Field for a few hours, driven to Statesboro for a home football game, and then returned the same evening in order to work during a Braves game the next day.