Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia always has held a special place in the hearts of Lois Shortt and her late husband, Bill. They met at UGA in 1945 and married two years year later.
Six decades later, the couple showed just how special UGA is to them by giving a $1 million gift to the university to create the William J. and Lois J. Shortt Graduate Fellowship in the College of Education’s department of kinesiology. The fund will support up to five graduate students each year.
“The gift from the Shortts to support a graduate fellowship will help us to recruit the very best students to study and do research with our faculty,” said Kirk Cureton, head of the department of kinesiology.”This type of support provides the margin of difference in developing an outstanding department known for its innovative contributions and leadership in the field of kinesiology. The faculty are extremely appreciative of the generosity of the Shortts and their support of the department.”
The couple met when Lois was a senior majoring in physical education and Bill had just returned home from military service in World War II. They married two years later and eventually made their home in Cornelia.
After graduating with a degree in business administration, Bill began his career with Athens Manufacturing Co., which was later purchased by Chicopee Manufacturing Co., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Bill spent the next 43 years working his way up in one of the world’s largest consumer health companies.
Bill, who passed away in April at the age of 85, and Lois have been long-time donors to UGA and had planned for more than 40 years to give to UGA through their wills. Due to Lois’ positive experiences as a student, she and Bill chose to make this generous gift to her home department, which is now part of the department of kinesiology.
“Being a P.E. major was not run-of-the-mill for girls at that time,” said Lois. “My classes were in the basement of the old P.E. building. I would have thought I had died and gone to heaven if I had the Ramsey Center to go to. It is amazing.”
Good nutrition and fitness have been lifelong priorities for Lois. At the age of 84, she maintains an active lifestyle and exercises every day. Until recently, she walked three miles a day. She also taught a free, senior citizens’ class through her church for 10 years that focused on exercising the whole body.
As Lois flips through a scrapbook chronicling their 63-year marriage, she smiles with pride at the numerous newspaper clippings announcing Bill’s promotions and church and civic leadership positions.
The couple raised two children, Sid and Sylvia, and traveled extensively, visiting every continent. However, Lois still found time to teach English classes and was recruited to create Habersham County Schools’ first elementary physical education program.
In her youth, Lois played sports and became one of the few female physical education majors at UGA in the 1940s. Arriving in Athens at the age of 16, the college freshman had to learn to teach every sport, including tumbling, horseshoes and tennis.
Mary Ella Lunday Soule, who served as head of the department of physical education for women at UGA from 1925-1960, was her inspiration.
“We never wanted to leave Ms. Soule,” she said. “She would talk with us and ask about our aspirations in life.”
Now, Bill and Lois can add to Soule’s legacy of promoting health and fitness to Georgians by funding the preparation of future physical education teachers at UGA.