The University of Georgia announced an ambitious goal of $1.2 billion for the Commit to Georgia Campaign as well as a lead gift from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation Nov. 17 at a kickoff event at the Georgia Aquarium.
The kickoff followed a campus event held Nov. 10, where the university shared its campaign priorities of opening doors and removing financial barriers, enhancing the learning environment and solving grand challenges with more than 1,000 faculty, staff and students gathered in celebration.
Fundraising for the Commit to Georgia Campaign in the preceding silent phase already has reached more than $680 million, surpassing the total amount raised during UGA’s previous major campaign. The university aims to reach its $1.2 billion goal by 2020.
“The success of our efforts will be measured not only by the number of dollars raised but also—and more importantly—by the number of lives changed,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead.
A commitment to students is at the center of this major fundraising effort, beginning with eliminating financial barriers by increasing support for merit- and need-based financial aid. In recognition of the critical importance of need-based aid, the Woodruff Foundation has made a transformational $30 million gift to the University of Georgia.
“The Woodruff Foundation is pleased to join alumni and friends of the University of Georgia to help expand opportunity for students with financial need,” said Russ Hardin, president of the Woodruff Foundation. “We recognize that many bright, hard-working Georgia students face significant financial barriers to attending the university and that far too many students graduate with burdensome debt. UGA’s ambitious campaign will help ensure both the educated workforce and the leadership our state needs to prosper in future years.”
This is the largest single gift ever received by the University of Georgia, and it builds positive momentum for the public phase of the Commit to Georgia Campaign.
“On behalf of the University of Georgia, I would like to express our deepest appreciation to the Woodruff Foundation,” said Morehead. “This monumental gift will be felt for generations to come, and the lives of countless students and their families across this great state will be forever changed by this tremendous act of generosity.”
In addition to increasing scholarship support for hard-working UGA students, the Commit to Georgia Campaign also will create more opportunities for hands-on learning and mentorship.
“UGA students are future leaders,” said Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Kelly Kerner. “This campaign will help more students have life-changing opportunities both in and out of the classroom, which will better prepare them to take on leadership roles in their careers and communities.”
In addition to Kerner and Morehead, other speakers at the kickoff events included Student Government Association President Houston Gaines, student Ashitha Rajeurs, and UGA Athletic Association Professor in Social Sciences Marshall Shepherd.
“Our faculty, staff and students are the heart of UGA and the inspiration for this campaign. Together, we will permanently, profoundly and positively alter the course of the University of Georgia, elevating teaching, research and service to levels never before imagined,” Morehead told the crowd.
Rajeurs is just one student who has benefited from those opportunities.
“I’ve been able to participate in the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities alongside Dr. Russell Karls to study tuberculosis,” she said. “This type of work takes commitment. Months or even years can pass before reaching an ‘a-ha’ moment. I’ve learned what a critical role research plays in the health care industry, and when I’m a doctor, I will have a deeper level of appreciation for medical research.”
Beyond supporting students, the Commit to Georgia Campaign will help faculty and staff address some of the biggest issues facing the state and world. UGA is uniquely positioned to tackle challenges ranging from preventing the spread of infectious diseases like Zika to feeding the world’s growing population to spurring economic development in the state. The Commit to Georgia Campaign not only will secure resources for such efforts but also will create more endowed professorships to attract and retain the very best and brightest faculty.
“The forward momentum at the University of Georgia is electric,” said Pete Correll, honorary co-chair of the campaign committee and chairman emeritus of Georgia-Pacific. “I am proud to be a Bulldog and proud to help UGA reach the $1.2 billion goal. More importantly, I am proud of the opportunity we have to positively impact thousands of students and generations of Georgians.”