Celia Williams Dunn ’61 named Sweet Briar’s 2022 Distinguished Alumna

Graduation from Sweet Briar was just the beginning of Celia’s dedication to her alma mater.

“Graduation from Sweet Briar was just the beginning of Celia’s dedication to her alma mater.”

That’s how her best friend since the first grade, Marion “Mimi” Lucas, describes long-time Charleston and Savannah community influencer, Celia Williams Dunn.

An alumna of Savannah Country Day School and St. Mary’s School in Peekskill, New York, Celia arrived on the campus of Sweet Briar College in the fall of 1957. She graduated from Sweet Briar with a degree in history in 1961, after which she married Laurence Dunn in 1963 and worked for her father’s insurance company before becoming a teacher in Savannah public schools. Her school program taught young people expelled indefinitely from public schools and who were in the juvenile court system. After completing the program, these students, many of whom became successful, completed their high school diplomas.

Celia was persuaded to join a real estate firm in Savannah by a family friend, and after six years, Celia established her own real estate business. In 1981, she founded Celia W. Dunn Realty Company. However, Celia’s work has never been just about real estate. From finding a church, to becoming involved with local organizations, Celia has been the consummate welcoming hostess to all of the families she relocates to the Savannah community.

Celia considers her volunteer work to be just as important as her real estate business. She has been a lifelong member of Christ Church Episcopal, worked for many years on the Savannah Tour of Homes and Gardens, and served on Christ Church’s vestry. When Christ Church went through a court battle to retrain its church property, Celia became very involved, even traveling to Atlanta to hear the arguments firsthand in front of the Georgia Supreme Court. Christ Church prevailed.

Celia has also been named Outstanding Alumna of Savannah Country Day School (2013), Outstanding Citizen of the Year by the American Red Cross, was President of the Junior League of Savannah, and is the first and only female realtor in Savannah to be honored by Junior Achievement Savannah Business Hall of Fame.  She has served on the Historic Savannah Foundation Board, Georgia Day Chairman, Savannah Chamber of Commerce Board, Savannah Technical College Foundation Board, Savannah Technical College Community Star, Savannah Music Festival Board, Savannah Children’s Community Choir Board, Savannah Read-in Grades 1-3 in the Savannah Public Schools, 41 years Distinguished Realtor award of Savannah Area Board of Realtors, Savannah Rotary Club representing Residential Real Estate classification, Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences nominating committee, Trustees Garden Club award for Visiting Gardens Chairman and Leadership Savannah.

In 1982, Celia W. Dunn Realty Company affiliated with Sotheby’s International Realty, and in 2006, the company became Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty. Celia sold the company in 2021 to Charleston-based Daniel Ravenel Sotheby’s International Realty with three offices in Savannah, Bluffton, and Hilton Head; Celia and Larry are still part of the company as associate brokers.

When she was presented with the Distinguished Alumna Award at Sweet Briar’s Reunion Convocation in June, Celia said, “I feel that our primary focus should be on helping other people and making their lives better. What we say and do should always be positive. Sweet Briar has given me the courage to stand up for myself and what I believe…how to ask questions, be mentally active, engage others in an exchange of ideas, and how to chart a course for the future. Thank you to Sweet Briar College for giving me a strong basis for building my professional career and my life.”