2013 Emory Medal Recipients

Walter M. “Sonny” Deriso Jr. 68C 72L

Sonny Deriso Walter M. “Sonny” Deriso Jr. began his service to Emory while attending Emory College. He was the first President of the Student Government Association, and was elected to both Omicron Delta Kappa and the D.V.S. Senior Honor Society. At graduation he received The Marion Luther Brittain Service Award. As a student at Emory Law, he served as Student Writing Editor of the Journal of Public Law, and received his juris doctorate with distinction upon graduation.

Deriso was elected in 2002 as an alumni trustee to the Emory Board of Trustees, and now serves as a term trustee. As an Emory trustee, he chairs two committees: the Audit Committee and the Emory Development and Communications Committee, and serves as a member of the Executive Committee and the Real Estate Gifts Subcommittee. He serves as chair of the advisory board of the Center for Ethics at Emory. Since 2003 he has on the Candler Committee of 100. He served as chairman of Campaign Emory in leading the university to exceed a campaign goal of $1.6 Billion which was announced publicly in September 2008 and concluded in 2012.

Deriso also was a practicing attorney in Albany, GA from 1972-1991. In 1991 he became president of Security Bank and Trust Company of Albany, a Synovus bank; and in 1997 he was elected vice-chairman of the board of Synovus Financial Corp., a role in which he served until 2005 when he retired from Synovus. In 2006 he became founding chairman of Atlantic Capital Bancshares, Inc., and led this bank holding company in raising in excess of $125 Million in capital. He serves as chairman of the board of Atlantic Capital Bancshares, Inc., and Atlantic Capital Bank. He serves as chairman of the board of GRTA; is a member of the board of directors of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce; is a member of the Rotary Club of Atlanta (where he received the Ivan Allen Club Service Award); and is chairman of the board of the Foundation of the Methodist Home for Children and Youth of the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Deriso’s nomination recognizes “all that Sonny has contributed to Emory over the past 40 years,” especially “his most recent contribution – chairing the successful $1.6 billion comprehensive campaign – has to be the crowning achievement.”

Joan Houston Hall 71G 76PhD

Joan Houston Hall Joan Houston Hall is the chief editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), the culmination of a fifty-year research effort into the complexities of American language. Hall is the consummate research scientist who has managed federal and private grants of more than $11 million for what has been called “one of the most significant humanities projects in the United States.” Her project’s patrons include “support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the New York Times Company Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and many other foundations as well as hundreds of individuals across the nation.”

In addition to her extensive editorial work, Hall has served as president of the American Dialect Society and the Dictionary Society of North America. She has been designated a Fellow of the Dictionary Society of North America, and she was recently granted an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by her undergraduate school, The College of Idaho. She serves as Distinguished Scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she has received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research. As well as publishing widely, she is a frequent lecturer and a guest on radio programs across the country.

As Hall’s Emory Medal nomination describes, “The dictionary’s unique contribution to our nation’s historical and cultural understanding would not have been possible without the determined and skillful leadership of Dr. Joan Hall. She is highly respected by her staff, by the University of Wisconsin where she serves as Distinguished Scientist, by her impressive board, and also by others in her field. DARE, based on interviews with Americans across the country, has taken nearly 50 years to reach the completion of the alphabet. It is used by doctors, lawyers, historians, authors, actors, detectives and many others.”

Hall has been internationally recognized for her work on DARE, “The greatest achievement in American lexicography in the past fifty years,” says American Speech. In her nominations, she has been hailed as a prototype for the American “public intellectual,” and has been lauded for making her scholarship readily accessible to the public via widely acclaimed printed volumes and a user-friendly website. The forthcoming digital edition (Harvard University Press, 2013) will allow readers to look up the meanings of local American words and phrases from Adam’s housecat to zydeco. 

Click the images below to view videos of past recipients.

Emory Medal 2013 Hall Video

Emory Medal 2013 Deriso Video

Emory Medal 2012 Video



William Warren

Twilla Haynes

Arthur Keys Jr.

Henry Bowden Jr.