ATHENS — Space is getting hard to come by inside the rotunda atop UGA’s Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. It’s there, in shiny metal letters on the circular walls inside that unique architectural feature, that Georgia displays the names of its best and brightest student-athletes of all time.
They’ve added four names for tonight’s Circle of Honor induction gala. Peter Anderson (football), Matias Boeker (men’s tennis), Leah Brown (gymnastics) and Maritza Correia McClendon (swimming) bring to 66 the number who have been bestowed with this distinction. And it’s an extraordinary honor to be sure.
The Circle of Honor was started in 1996 by the UGA Athletic Association “to recognize and pay tribute to extraordinary student-athletes and coaches who, by their performance and conduct, have brought honor to the University and themselves, and who by their actions have contributed to the tradition of the Georgia Bulldogs.” The criteria also stipulates that each recipient has earned his or her academic degree.
So many have fit that bill over the years, but only the very best are tabbed for the honor. And so a committee pores meticulously over nominees, and another strong class goes in this year.
Anchored the Bulldogs’ offensive line at center from 1983-85 and garnered consensus All-America honors as a senior. In 1985, he became the first Vince Dooley-coached player to be named the team’s permanent captain at mid-season (an honor usually reserved until the end of the season). Anderson was an All-SEC choice in 1984 and 1985.
Anderson was named the Atlanta Touchdown Club’s Southeastern Lineman of the Year and was chosen as the team’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player in 1985. He also won the 1985 Evans Johnson Award as the player recognized by the coaches as exhibiting leadership, loyalty, dedication and sportsmanship and the William K. Jenkins Award as the team’s Most Valuable Lineman.
Anderson was chosen as the Associated Press Southeastern Lineman of the Week in 1984 for his performance against Clemson in which he played center, guard and tackle all in the same game. He also earned the CBS Most Valuable Player recognition against Clemson in 1985 when he recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Anderson was inducted into the Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame in 2013.
He earned his degree in Business Education in 1987.
After being named the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2000, Boeker, a native of Buenos Aries, Argentina, completed the program’s first triple crown of tennis — and only the third in NCAA history — in 2001, as he helped guide Georgia to its fourth national championship while winning both the NCAA singles and doubles titles.
In his final season in 2002, Boeker won the NCAA singles crown for the second straight year. Boeker was honored as the ITA National Player of the Year and as the SEC Player of the Year. He played most of that spring — and most of his career, for that matter — in the No. 1 singles and doubles spots, earning All-America honors in both positions.
Boeker, who also was an All-American as both a freshman and sophomore, became only the ninth Bulldog to garner All-America accolades at least three times.
Boeker ended his final season with a 28-3 singles record and riding a 23-match winning streak. In three seasons, Boeker posted a 108-25 singles record and an 88-31 mark in doubles play.
Boeker graduated in 2007 with a degree in International Business. He earned his dual degree (MBA and MA in International Studies) in 2014 from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
Brown, an Atlanta native, was a 14-time All-American for the Gymdogs, including the 1996 vault and 1997 floor national championships. She also claimed SEC titles on vault and floor in 1996 and 1997 and on bars in 1997.
Brown helped Georgia win conference team crowns in 1994, 1996 and 1997. She was the first gymnast in NCAA history to score a 10.0 in her first collegiate meet and went on to boast 19 in her career (16 on vault, three on floor). Brown also was the first Georgia freshman to win the SEC all-around title, doing so in 1994.
Brown was a two-time Academic All-SEC selection and was a member of Leadership UGA and Student Athletic Council leadership organizations and the prestigious Omicron Delta Kappa, Blue Key and Palladia honor societies. She won the Arthur Ashe Award for Black Issues in Higher Education in 1995 and was selected as a finalist for the state Sportswoman of the Year in 1995.
Brown has served two tours of duty in Afghanistan as an orthopedic surgeon in the Navy. She was awarded the Bronze Star for her humanitarian efforts treating women and children in Afghanistan.
Brown graduated in 1998 with a degree in Genetics. She earned her medical degree at Ohio State and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in 2003.
Maritza Correia McClendon
Correia was born in Puerto Rico after her parents relocated from Guyana. As a child, she was diagnosed with scoliosis and her doctor recommended swimming as a treatment. In 1990, when Correia was nine, her family moved to Tampa, Fla., where she embarked on a record-setting high school and juniors career.
Correia was an individual or relay national champion in each of her four seasons at Georgia. She won the 200-meter freestyle and the 400-meter freestyle and medley relays in 2000; the 800-yard freestyle relay in 2001; the 50- and 100-yard freestyles and the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays in 2002; and the 50- and 100-yard freestyles and the 200-yard freestyle relay in 2003. She ended her career as a 27-time All-American, one shy of the maximum total.
Correia was the first (and still only) woman in SEC history to earn a league title in each freestyle race: the 50 in 2002 and 2003; the 100 in 2001, 2002 and 2003; the 200 in 2000; the 500 in 2000; and the 1,650 in 2000. She also was on seven victorious SEC relays.
She helped the Lady Bulldogs win NCAA and SEC team titles in 2000 and 2001.
Correia was the first African-American woman to make the U.S. Olympic swimming team and the first to break an American record. She picked up a silver medal on the 400-meter freestyle relay in the Olympics in Athens, Greece. At one point during her career, Correia held American records in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle and on the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays.
Correia graduated in 2005 with a degree in Sociology.