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Ron Alt Service Award

The Ron Alt Service Award

Introduced in 2018, the Ron Alt Service Award honors the spirit of selfless service that he embodied throughout his life. His work is legendary and this award commemorates his great desire to serve and help foster the well-being of children and youth everywhere. The inaugural Ron Alt Service Award was presented to the family of Ron Alt after his passing. Each year, the Planning Council selects a community member who leads by example and who embodies this same selfless service.

Congrats to the Award Winner Michael O’Neal!

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Michael has been a Savannah resident since college. Michael and his wife, Jo-Nell, are the parents of three sons and a daughter, all married, and 12 grandchildren. He began his career with International Paper in 1976 and worked most of that time in the Electrical and Instrument Maintenance Department. Michael is a founder of Parent University and now serves as the Executive Director of Community United Services Inc., the entity that manages Parent University. O’Neal has been the chief steward of this grassroots, community-based program since its inception in Savannah in 1999. O’Neal has been speaking and educating others about Parent University and community building throughout the United States, and other countries. As a result, Parent University has now expanded and currently has affiliate activities in Pensacola, Atlanta, Chicago and others in development.

Mr. O’Neal occasionally host the TV show “Parent University TV.” He co-wrote the “Dear Diane and
Mike” column and has contributed as a columnist for the Savannah Morning News. He has managed a
pilot project for the City of Savannah called the Strong Families Program to give parental training to the
parents of youth who were considered “at risk” by the schools or courts. He has co-facilitated parental
engagement seminars at locations in Georgia and South Carolina in collaboration with the Georgia
Department of Education, which was featured on Georgia Public Broadcasting.

In 2015, O’Neal was granted a one-year paid leave from International Paper to allow him to work with
Parent University and its focused program, Early Learning College at Parent University. He served on the
Advisory Board of the Savannah Early Childhood Foundation (SECF, which merged with Parent University
in 2020) and he has served on numerous boards and councils throughout the community. Michael
O’Neal and Parent University have received numerous awards and recognitions throughout the 20+
years of community service and action, including:

  • Blessings in a Bookbag’s STRIDE Award – 2022
  • Rotarian of the Month Award -Rotary District 6920– 2022
  • Community Innovator Award -Greater Savannah Black Chamber of Commerce 2022
  • Citizen of the Year Award – Omega Psi Phi, Mu Phi Chapter 2022

2020 Award from Senator Lester Jackson, Georgia Senate Resolution with Recognition and
Commendation as a Georgia Senate Ambassador • 2019 Whitney M. Young, Jr. Service Award from
Coastal Georgia Boy Scouts of America • Recognition in the Beacon 2019 (several articles) • 2015
Fortune Magazine “Heroes of the 500” • Grand Marshal of the 2014 Martin Luther King Junior
Observance Day Association Parade • 2013 Arthur A. “Don” Mendonsa Visionary Award by Chatham-
Savannah Youth Futures Authority • 2010 Leadership Award from Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity • 2006 and
2010 Georgia Outstanding Citizen Award given by the Secretary of State • Resolution of Commendations
from the 2006 and 2010 Georgia House of Representatives Resolution of Commendation from the
Georgia Senate in 2010 • Phi Delta Kappa Association of Professional Educators’ “Friend of Education
Honoree” • 2008 Spirit of Excellence Award • Black Business Awards’ “Outstanding Achievement for
Leadership & Business Contributions” • Martin Luther King Junior Observance Day Association’s 2007
Humanitarian Award

He is a member of the Baha’i Faith and has served in various local, regional, and continental institutions
for the Faith. He has contributed to many activities that attempt to unite the community. This includes
Race Unity Picnics in Savannah and elsewhere. Michael has travelled to many countries, mostly in Africa.
He enjoys mentoring youth to accompany them on their path to social, educational and spiritual

In Memory of Ron Alt

Ron Alt passed away, surrounded by family, on October 20, 2017. He was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, coach and friend.

Past Recipients


Michael O’Neal
Parent University
Community United Services, Inc.


Dr. Evelyn Baker Dandy
Professor Emeritus of Armstrong Atlantic State University


Judge Lisa Colbert
Chatham County Juvenile Court


Dan Rea, Ed.D.
Former National Youth-At-Risk Conference Chair


Otis Johnson, Ph.D.
Former Mayor of Savannah, Georgia


Ron Alt, MHS
Former Director of the Housing Authority of Savannah Drug Elimination Program.

March 3-6, 2024   |   #NYAR24

Last updated: 9/20/2023