Athens, Ga. – As the nation prepares to mark the 150th anniversary of the deadliest war in its history, a gift from Amanda and Henry D. “Greg” Gregory Jr. of Atlanta is expanding Civil War era studies at the University of Georgia for faculty and students alike.
The Gregorys have given a $1 million gift to establish the Amanda and Greg Gregory Chair in the Civil War Era in the UGA department of history, part of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. An additional $50,000 from the Gregorys will support research in Civil War era studies for graduate students and faculty members, while another $10,000 gift will bring a prominent historian to UGA this fall to conduct special seminars with students and to deliver a public lecture.
“Private support is crucial to advancing the important work of public higher education,” said UGA President Michael F. Adams. “The Gregorys have combined their passion for Civil War studies with a generous and significant financial commitment to advance that work in the history department at UGA, and we are deeply grateful to them.”
Greg retired as president and CEO of commercial real estate firm Industrial Developments International in 2007, after a long and successful career. He attended UGA’s Grady College of Journalism from 1962-66 and has supported his alma mater in several ways, including serving as a member of the Terry College of Business board of advisors and delivering guest lectures to students there. He currently serves as an advisory trustee to the Arch Foundation for the University of Georgia and is a member of the Franklin College Dean’s Council. Amanda earned her bachelor of science degree in education in 1969 and taught in public and private elementary schools in Atlanta for more than a decade.
In their 40 years of marriage, the Gregorys have had a continuing fascination with American history and how the threads of the past weave into the fabric of today. Greg serves on the advisory board that oversees George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, and Amanda is passionate about ensuring that future generations of Americans have an accurate understanding of the people and forces that have shaped the nation.
In exploring their gift options, the Gregorys met several times with faculty to assess the strengths and needs of the department. They sat in on an undergraduate American history class and were transfixed by a seminar taught by Associate Professor Diane Batts Morrow on how slaves came to adopt Christianity.
“We were in her class for an hour or so, and Amanda and I were so infatuated that we didn’t want it to be over,” Greg recalls. “One of the things that we recognized right away was that the history department had a very strong foundation and that we wanted to have as much impact as possible.”
Robert Pratt, head of the history department at UGA, notes that the gift from the Gregorys comes at a time when scholars are examining the Civil War from new perspectives. While previous generations of historians have focused on the military aspects of the war and on towering figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, scholars today are exploring the social ramifications of the war, including how it impacted the home front, the status of women and race relations.
Pratt said that faculty members such as Emeritus Professor Emory Thomas have helped make UGA one of the nation’s most attractive institutions for students of the Civil War era. Recent hires such as Associate Professor Stephen Berry continue to attract promising students, and the gift from the Gregorys will have what Pratt called “a far-reaching impact, both in the short term and long term.”
In October, historian Victoria Bynum, author of The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies (UNC Press, 2010), will be the history department’s Gregory Guest Lecturer. Bynum also writes the popular Renegade South blog (http://renegadesouth.wordpress.com/) and is the author of The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War (UNC Press, 2001) and Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South (UNC Press, 1992).
“We are very grateful to the Gregorys for recognizing and supporting the scholarship of the faculty and students in our history department,” said Garnett Stokes, dean of the Franklin College. “They are wonderful partners in our mission, and their gifts take an already strong department to a new level of national prominence.”