The Cousins Foundation makes gift to support scholarships, endow UGA swim and dive coach

The Cousins Foundation, Inc. has committed more than $5 million to the University of Georgia to support need-based scholarships for students and to permanently endow the UGA head swimming and diving coach position.

“I want to thank The Cousins Foundation for partnering with the University of Georgia to advance one of our top priorities, increasing scholarship support for our students with financial needs,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “This significant gift will transform the lives of so many UGA students—and their families—for generations into the future, and I am deeply grateful for the Foundation’s tremendous generosity.”

This major gift is one of the first to the university in fiscal year 2018, which began on July 1.  It will be matched by an additional $500,000 from the UGA Foundation through the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program, announced by Morehead in January to increase the number of need-based scholarships available at UGA.

The Cousins Foundation’s gift will establish the Cousins Scholars Program, a robust collegiate experience for 24 service-minded UGA students who demonstrate significant financial need. The four-year program will welcome six new students each year, with the first cohort beginning in fall 2019. The Cousins Foundation is known for its strong commitment to community service, and service will be integrated throughout the new scholarship program.

Credit: Duane Stork

Four components will define the program: an annual academic scholarship of $7,000 (on top of Zell Miller or HOPE scholarships and Pell grants) that is renewable for up to four years; participation in UGA’s Freshman College Summer Experience, a bridge program to help first-year students transition to campus; grants up to $2,000 to pursue high-impact experiential learning opportunities; and targeted support and mentorship from a program coordinator partially funded by the gift. In addition, a cohort structure will establish a strong social network for Cousins Scholars and help to promote the highest levels of student learning and success.

“On behalf of The Cousins Foundation and my parents, we are proud to support the University of Georgia through these gifts,” said Lillian Giornelli, president of The Cousins Foundation and daughter of Tom and Ann Cousins. “We believe in the importance and power of community giving and engagement, and we are committed to empowering the community around us to make a lasting positive impact on the world.”

A gift to the UGA Athletic Association will endow the swimming and diving head coach position in honor of Ann and Tom Cousins, founders of The Cousins Foundation. Tom was a Georgia letterman in swimming in 1950 and 1951 and a member of the 1950 SEC track and field championship team. He also is the recipient of UGA’s Bill Hartman Award, which recognizes former UGA student-athletes who have demonstrated excellence in their profession and service to others.

The position will be known as the Tom Cousins Head Swimming and Diving Coach, and will be the second endowed head coaching position at UGA. The first is the Ike Cousins Head Baseball Coach, named for Tom Cousins’ father, which was endowed by the Cousins family in 2016.

“We are so pleased that the Cousins Foundation has made a second incredible gift to our athletic program,” said J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity. “The Cousins have been remarkable advocates for the state through sport and cultural and social development. They have changed lives, created opportunities and will continue to do so through this endowment.”

Tom Cousins is the founder and chairman of Cousins Properties, Inc., a real estate investment trust. He is on the board of the Georgia Research Alliance and is a former chairman of the UGA Foundation. He has served on the boards of NationsBank (now Bank of America), First Union, and Shaw Industries, and he was president of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

Writer: Elizabeth R. Elmore,
Contact: Jill Walton, 706-369-5975,

This news release was originally published by UGA Today on August 3, 2017.