Athens, Ga. – Jane Willson, one of the University of Georgia’s strongest supporters, has endowed a new fund to support students who take part in the Lamar Dodd School of Art’s Studies Abroad Program in Cortona, Italy. Willson’s $534,000 gift will be used to support students who might not otherwise have the chance to participate in the multifaceted program.
Known as the “Jane Willson Cortona Studies Abroad Fellowship,” the new fund is a marvelous addition to support of UGA’s Franklin College, according to its dean, Garnett S. Stokes.
“Jane Willson has again shown her incredible generosity in supporting the faculty and students at the University of Georgia,” said Stokes. “Increasing participation in international programs is a high priority for UGA, yet one stumbling block has been that students cannot always afford the financial investment required. Building support for study abroad scholarships is key, and Jane Willson’s endowment for scholarships for students participating in one of our oldest and best established programs is worth celebrating. It’s a remarkable legacy for a premier study abroad program.”
Georgia Strange, director of the School of Art, likewise applauded the gift. “With this strategic gift, Jane Willson ensures that talented art students will have access to a transformative education. Centuries if not millennia of cultural history available in Cortona will be accessible to all our students with the Jane Willson Cortona Studies Abroad Fellowship. This fellowship will change lives,” said Strange.
Jane Willson, along with her late husband, Harry, has maintained a long interest in and support of education, international affairs and the arts at UGA. They endowed the UGA Center for Humanities and Arts, which was renamed the Jane and Harry Willson Center for Humanities and Arts in 2005. The couple also endowed a professorship in the humanities, created a scholarship fund for undergraduates and supported the State Botanical Garden at UGA.
In 2001, they gave $1 million to the UGA Center for International Trade and Security to create an endowment that brings visiting scholars and international leaders to the university and provides international internship opportunities for students.
Following Harry Willson’s death in 2004, Jane Willson has continued her generosity to the University of Georgia. In 2005, she gave a $534,000 gift to the UGA Honors Program to provide travel grants for honors students to study abroad.
In May 2006, the university gave Jane Willson an honorary degree at the Undergraduate Commencement ceremony last May. She serves on the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences board of advisors and has served as a trustee of the UGA Foundation and the University of Georgia Research Foundation. She is also a member of the Presidents Club and the Heritage Society. In 2004, she received the Blue Key Service Award from the UGA chapter of Blue Key honor society.
“When Jane Willson arrived in Cortona in the spring of 2006, she hit the ground running and never stopped during those four days,” said Rick Johnson, director of the Cortona program. “She was interested in everything she witnessed on our Cortona campus and seemed to especially enjoy her interaction with the science Maymester students. Her desire to provide financial assistance for students who otherwise could not experience a semester in this 38-year-old studies abroad program became apparent and this gift is the manifestation of her desire. As director, and on behalf of the generations of students who will be the beneficiaries of this gift, I wish to thank Jane Willson.”
Cortona-a 2,700-year-old Italian city set on a hillside amid terraced fields of olives, wheat and sunflowers-has been the site of UGA’s study program in art since 1970. Retired art professor Jack Kehoe started the program as a summer experience for UGA students to study drawing, painting and architecture.
Kehoe chose Cortona not only for its history and spectacular scenery, but also because of its attributes for art education. Located in the birthplace of Italian Renaissance art, it has many examples of Etruscan, Roman, Medieval and Renaissance art and architecture, and is within day-trip distance of such cities as Florence, Bologna and Siena, home of works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and other masters.
Some 200 students annually attend classes offered in fall, spring and summer semesters and a special Maymester session. In addition to instruction in art and art-related subjects, the program also includes courses in Italian language and culture, philosophy, creative writing and women’s studies.
About half of the more than 4,000 students who have studied at Cortona were from UGA; the rest have come from more than 200 other institutions throughout the United States.