This article was written by Chris Starrs for Terry News. To view the original article, click here.
If you think six years is a long time to be a college student, let me introduce you to Tina Taylor.
Starting her college career in 1999, Taylor earned undergraduate degrees in accounting (2003), finance (2004), and a master’s in accountancy (2005) by the time she was done. As a member of the Lady Bulldogs basketball team, she fought through four knee injuries and was granted six years of eligibility playing for legendary coach Andy Landers. She played in 71 games, was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll four times, and in 2003-04 served as a student-athlete representative on the UGA Athletic Association’s Board of Directors.
Talk about six years well spent.
“I was there six years and it was a good six years,” she says. “I was redshirted a couple of times, and the fact that (Landers) cared enough about me, my education, and me getting my education was amazing.
“When I thought about all the different reasons I wanted to go to Georgia, yes, the basketball program was a huge part of it, but the other part of it was education,” adds Taylor, who hails from Longview, Texas. “I always knew I wanted to be in business, although I didn’t know in what form that would be. But I knew Terry College was the school for me.”
Now working as a tax senior manager in private client services for EY in Houston, where she was recently named partner, Taylor may have left Georgia unsatisfied with her basketball career, but she was more than pleased with what she gained in the long run.
“My basketball career didn’t go the way I wanted it to go, but I don’t have any regrets by any stretch of the imagination,” she says. “I wouldn’t be in the career I’m in now without being under Coach Landers and being a part of those teams.”
Taylor says when it comes to seeing his players graduate, Landers — who coached the Lady Bulldogs for 36 years — didn’t just talk the talk.
“He never wavered, he never said, ‘You know what, Tina? This is not working out for us. Maybe it would be best for you to move on,’” she says. “That was never the conversation. It was all ‘How can we help you be better as a person, as a student-athlete?’ and it just means so much to me.”
The life of a student-athlete at any major college program is a never-ending loop of classes, studying, practice, travel, and competition. Taylor remembers many late nights flying back to Athens after an away game spending the entire flight buried in books. And she recalls the Terry College professors who helped her in dealing with a schedule many would find simply impossible to navigate.
“It was a true partnership,” says Taylor of her UGA days. “When I think about the schedule a college basketball player has, which means you’re gone a lot, and what I chose to study, accounting, which is very strenuous and requires a lot of studying and a big-time commitment, I sometimes wonder how it all got done. You’re talking about two different levels of commitment that I had to deal with. But my professors were so awesome.”
Taylor says the Terry College professors who made the biggest impact on her were Ben Ayers (now the Terry College dean), Mark Dawkins (now dean at the University of North Florida), and Dan Smith (who passed away earlier this year). Taylor’s mentors, as well as her teammates and coaches, played a huge role when her father died during her time at UGA.
“They were always flexible and always willing to work with me,” says Taylor. “My father passed away my junior year, and to think about dealing with that, and school, and accounting classes, plus basketball — it was a lot. But everybody was so accommodating and wanted to help from both sides. It made a period, that was probably not the best in my life, much more manageable.”
Taylor, who was a star basketball and volleyball player at Longview High School, has done her part to help those coming after her by endowing a scholarship in honor of her father at her alma mater.
“That’s something that means a lot to me,” she says. “I started it a little over 10 years ago as sort of a way to give back. I feel the same way about Longview High School as I feel about Georgia and the education I received. I’m committed to seeing under-resourced students receive an education.
“The scholarship is geared for girls’ basketball players because, of course, I was one and I understand the time commitment and dedication you have to have to be part of the team. For those that aren’t able to receive a basketball scholarship, I’ll help them. (The scholarship) has helped 15 to 20 young ladies get to college in the last 10 years.”
Making partner at EY is certainly Taylor’s highlight of 2019, and the cherry on the sundae came when she learned she was named one of UGA’s 40 Under 40.
“My first thought was, ‘They have the wrong person. I don’t belong in that group.’” says Taylor, one of 11 Terry College alums honored.
“I’m very grateful that somebody thought enough of me to include me in that group. It’s definitely not something I expected. I’m very humbled about it because it means something, when it comes to Georgia, to be recognized in that manner. It’s very cool.”