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Clint and Alexandra talk in the student lounge

Family, friends gather for McNeal lab dedication

Alexandra McNeal reached across the black table and touched the chair across from her. She looked at her friends and former classmates next to her, beaming. “This was my table—this was my chair,” she said. “This was some of the best times of our life.”


McNeal had walked into a first-floor lab at the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources where she and her husband, Clint McNeal, first met as undergraduate students. Now, less than a decade after graduating with degrees in fisheries and wildlife, the couple returned to mark another milestone: The dedication of the lab in their honor.


The McNeal Family Lab, as it’s now called, holds a collection of animal specimens and tree samples—study aids used by nearly every undergraduate student as they move through Warnell. It’s also a classroom where several undergraduate staples are taught. Now, thanks to the generosity of the McNeals and their memories of their time at Warnell, the room will also represent the long-lasting connections made by students at the school.


For now, though, the new name is only evident by the nameplate on the door—the couple opted to skip a commemorative plaque with their biography, noting that “their story isn’t finished.”


To celebrate, Alexandra and Clint gathered with a boisterous group of family and friends, many of whom came to town to also attend UGA Homecoming festivities later that weekend. The event was a reflection of the couple, who are described as low-key and unpretentious. Moving an event to accommodate loved ones is just part of their nature, noted several family members in attendance.


Rather than a series of speeches and a timetable of events, the group flowed from the lobby of Warnell’s Building 4 to the newly named lab across the courtyard. There, they popped some champagne and took photos, laughing and sharing stories along the way.


At one point, Clint looked over the shoulder of a current Warnell student as he studied different species of mice and voles. Nearby, another student worked on a term paper.


“If it wasn’t for everyone in this room, we wouldn’t have been able to make this contribution,” Clint noted. “And if it wasn’t for this place, we wouldn’t have wanted to make this contribution.”


After their first class together, the couple remained friends. But it wasn’t until after graduation—Alexandra was a year behind Clint, and he was pursuing graduate studies at Auburn—when their paths crossed again. She was studying shore birds on the Alabama coast; Clint drove over to help. 


In typical Warnell style, their first date involved field work.


Now, even with careers under their belts and new business ventures in the works, the couple continues to feel connected to the school. When they learned the room where they first met was available for a naming opportunity, Clint said he jumped at the chance.


“We wouldn’t be a family if it wasn’t for this place,” he said, as cousins and in-laws laughed nearby. “I have a lot of special memories in this room.”

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