2024 Awards Luncheon Celebrates Outstanding Marist Alumni

On May 23, the Marist School Alumni Association hosted its annual Alumni Awards Luncheon at Cherokee Town Club, honoring three alumni for their exceptional service to the community and dedication to Marist School. This year's event recognized Omari L. Hardwick ’92 with the Distinguished Alumni Award, Grace Starling ’12 with the Father Hartnett Service Award, and Spencer L. Mitchell ’09 with the Outstanding Young Alumni Award.
Attendees included the award recipients and their special guests, past awardees, Marist Fathers, and members of the Marist Alumni Board. The event was led by Alumni Board co-presidents Devon Morgan McKenna ’00 and Matt Simmons ’02. Katie Fowler Brown ’06, director of alumni engagement, welcomed and thanked the guests, acknowledged the award recipients, and introduced Fr. Mark Kenney, S.M. for the blessing.

Katie Athaide Mitchell ’09 introduced her husband, Spencer Mitchell ’09, as the Outstanding Young Alumni Award recipient. In addressing those present, he reflected on the impact his Marist School experience had on his personal and professional growth. He highlighted the school’s emphasis on developing the whole person and its role in shaping his commitment to excellence and community service as well as his passion for mental wellness work. This influence is most evident in his advocacy work with the nonprofit organization Heads Up for Harry, which he co-founded with other Marist graduates to help young adults strengthen their mental health. He maintains a focus on driving innovative ideas into thriving organizations in his professional life as well, where he has consulted for cancer centers and nonprofits during his time at PwC. Currently, he serves as CEO of TruckerCloud, a company he elevated into a leading startup by enhancing trucking software in inventive ways. Overall, his achievements underscore his dedication to service and his unwavering optimism, both of which are worthy of recognition.

“I feel like Marist embeds so well in its students the mindset to always ask what more you can do. This question is constantly presented at Marist, given the wide range of activities available to you, and the excellence to which these groups aspire,” Mitchell said. “I think if you're a part of a group of people who have this mindset to ask what else can I do, or how else can I serve, then that alone carries you forward.”

Marist School Rector Father Bill Rowland, S.M., former school president, introduced the Father Hartnett Service Award recipient, Grace Starling ’12. A labor and employment attorney in Atlanta, Starling advocates for employees facing workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. In her acceptance speech, Grace attributed her dedication to service and advocacy to the values instilled in her at Marist.

Her professional role involves meeting clients, listening to their experiences, providing sound advice, and advocating for their rights. Starling ascribes her ability to serve others through her profession to her Marist education, which taught her to use her voice to advocate for a more equitable world, respect the dignity of all people, and live a faith-driven life of service and empathy.

"Marist taught me that our Catholic faith is inextricably linked to the respect and dignity of all people regardless of status, gender, religion, or race and that we must be stewards of this type of respect and dignity for all,” said Starling.

The final honoree of the event was the Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, Omari Hardwick ’92, who was introduced by his classmates and varsity football teammates Mike Cascone ’92, Jim Harris ’92, and Barney Lynch ’92. Hardwick, an accomplished actor, producer, and advocate, shared reflections on his formative years at Marist. He spoke of the support he experienced, particularly emphasizing the role of his father and the late Father James Hartnett, S.M., former Marist principal and president, in shaping his path.

Hardwick reflected on the trajectory his life has taken since graduating high school, his family, and how his time at Marist significantly shaped who he is today. He discussed the challenges he faced, particularly being one of the few Black students on campus. Hardwick credited his father's decision to send him to Marist as a pivotal moment that set the foundation for his growth.

“It’s incredible that I can come back and be honored by Marist and the Marist Alumni Association—and to be honored with Spencer and Grace,” he remarked, while also expressing his appreciation for being recognized for the spirit of servitude with which he approaches life. The classmates who introduced him commented on this admirable part of Hardwick’s character, recognizing his “tireless desire to do better and to be better in every way, in every part of his life.”

Hardwick highlighted the nurturing environment at Marist, which supported him through adversity and helped him develop a strong sense of belonging and a recognition of his talent for “execution”, which he described as the ability to effectively carry out tasks and fulfill responsibilities. Hardwick emphasized that his father recognized this quality in him and chose Marist because it was an environment that valued and fostered execution. His experiences at Marist helped him develop and hone this skill, making it a core part of his identity and success.

"My nature is to execute, and somehow I've learned in life that that's an actual gift in and of itself. To be an executor is a separate gift. So many people are gifted and talented and never execute,” Hardwick said. “My father decided that he could almost give steroids to a natural executor if he put me in an environment where everything around me was about execution. Everything."

Hardwick also expressed pride in how his Marist experience paved the way for his sister Shani Hardwick Wilson ’00, whose positive experience at Marist reflects their family’s enduring connection with the school community.

The event was filled with heartfelt speeches and shared memories that underscored the profound and lasting impact of a Marist education. The Marist values instilled in Hardwick, Starling, and Mitchell resonate deeply, inspiring a spirit of community and excellence in their professional achievements and personal lives and serving as a profound inspiration to our school community.
View photos from the Alumni Awards Luncheon.

Read more about the 2024 Alumni Award recipients.

Marist School

3790 Ashford Dunwoody Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30319-1899
(770) 457-7201
An Independent Catholic School of the Marist Fathers and Brothers