Alabama Academy of Honor adds 5 members to its ranks from business, law, science, sports

The Alabama Academy of Honor, established by the legislature in the 1960s to recognize living Alabamaans for achievement in business, civil rights, science, politics, education, literature, sports and other fields, today welcomed five new members.

In a ceremony at the Capitol this morning, the academy recognized former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Sue Bell Cobb, construction company executive M. James Gorrie, geneticist Richard M. Myers, and former University of Alabama gymnastics coach Sarah Patterson , and Blue Cross and Timothy Vines, executive directors of Blue Shield of Alabama.

The academy has a membership of up to 100 living members, plus the governor and any living former governor. About 190 people elected to the academy have since died.

The members of the academy elect new members. A majority of the members is required for the election of a new member.

Sue Bell Cobb

Cobb became the first woman to be elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2006.

Cobb grew up in Evergreen and earned degrees in history and law from the University of Alabama. She was appointed a district judge for Conecuh County at age 25, and in 1994 became the first woman elected to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

Cobb has campaigned for improvements in the state’s juvenile court system and child support programs. She has served as President of the Alabama Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and has received the Juvenile Probation Officer Institute’s Outstanding Service Award, the Children’s Voice Award and the Child Abuse Lifetime Achievement Award.

Cobb is a founding member of the Children First Foundation and helped establish the Alabama Children First Trust Fund, which has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in services to children and families.

Cobb now serves as the pro bono general manager of Redemption Earned, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides free legal assistance to help elderly and ailing state residents achieve parole and transition to nursing homes.

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M James Gorrie

Since 2010, Gorrie has been CEO of Brasfield & Gorrie, a general contractor founded by his father, Miller, which has grown to more than 3,500 employees in 13 regional offices and 2021 sales of $4.2 billion.

Gorrie began working for the company during the summers in high school and college, learning the basics of the business in the equipment store and in the field. After graduating from Auburn University with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1984, he went to work full-time.

Brasfield & Gorrie has built hundreds of projects across the state. The company was the official construction partner of the 2022 World Games in Birmingham where its projects include the BJCC Legacy Arena, City Walk BHAM and the BJCC Protective Stadium.

Associated Builders and Contractors presented Gorrie with a Cornerstone Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. As director of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and the Birmingham Business Alliance, he has fostered business growth in the state.

Gorrie serves on the local and national board of directors of The Salvation Army and on the board of directors of the Alys Stephens Center for the Performing Arts. He is the Executive Chairman of the Monday Morning Quarterback Club’s Quarterbacking Children’s Health Foundation.

Richard M Myers

A native of Selma, Myers earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Alabama in 1976, followed by a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1982.

In 1993, Myers became a professor and chair of the Department of Genetics at Stanford University School of Medicine. At the Stanford Humane Genome Center, Myers led a team that contributed more than 10 percent of the data to the Human Genome Project’s effort to sequence the first human genome. Myers’ lab identified the genetic causes of several inherited disorders, including a form of childhood epilepsy and the most common cause of skin cancer.

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Myers returned to Alabama in 2008 to become President and Scientific Director of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, a nonprofit research and teaching institute in Huntsville. Myers was named HudsonAlpha’s Chief Scientific Officer and President Emeritus in July.

HudsonAlpha’s research focuses on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, as well as neuropsychiatric diseases such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and major depression. The goals are to understand the causes, develop therapies and develop blood-based biomarker tests for early detection and monitoring.

Myers was an avid teacher and mentor throughout his career. In 2011 he was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The Alabama Academy of Science presented him with the 2020 Wright A. Gardner Award. Myers is senior editor of the journal Genome Research, published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

Sarah Patterson

Sarah Patterson and her husband David took over a gymnastics program in Alabama in 1978 that had gone four years and four coaches without a successful season. They have made the Crimson Tide a national powerhouse in sports.

Alabama won six NCAA championships and eight Southeastern Conference titles during Patterson’s 36 years as head coach. Patterson became the first SEC coach in a sport to win national titles in four different decades, 1988, 1991, 1996, 2002, 2011 and 2012. Patterson has been named National Coach of the Year four times. She coached eight Crimson Tide gymnasts who won the Honda Award, which recognizes the nation’s top gymnast. She coached 189 Scholastic All-Americans.

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Gymnastics tournaments became a major draw for fans during Patterson’s career, drawing sell-out crowds eleven times to the 15,000-seat Coleman Coliseum.

Patterson used her coaching success to fuel the creation of the Power of Pink initiative, formed in 2004 to raise awareness in the fight against breast cancer. The Power of Pink campaign has donated $2.1 million to the DCH Breast Cancer Fund to help prevent, detect and treat breast cancer in uninsured women.

Patterson retired from coaching in 2014. She served as fundraising chair for the United Way of West Alabama in 2017 and serves on the boards of Elevate Tuscaloosa and Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports.

Timothy Vines

Vines, a native of LaFayette, east Alabama, has served as President and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, the state’s largest health insurer, since 2018.

Vines also serves as Chairman of the Board of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, a national association of 35 independent and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.

Vines graduated from Auburn University in 1988 with a degree in finance. He played on the Auburn baseball team and now serves on the University Board of Trustees and on the Board of Trustees at Samford University.

Vines serves on the board of directors of Regions Financial Corporation and on the board of directors of the Birmingham Business Alliance, Leadership Birmingham, the Business Council of Alabama and the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.

Vines is a strong supporter of the work of his 31-year-old wife, Antoinette (Toni), the founder of Mercy Deliverance Ministries, which provides access to affordable housing, health care and fresh food in underserved areas.

Read more about the Alabama Academy of Honor.

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