Class of 2020 breaks Senior Signature record

The UGA Class of 2020 set a record for Senior Signature gifts, with 2,977 graduating students participating in the program. Senior Signature is the university’s class gift program in which students donate $50 to UGA prior to graduation. This is the fourth consecutive year the graduating class has broken the previous year’s record.

The Class of 2020 beat the Class of 2019’s record by more than 400 participants. Their accomplishment is particularly impressive given the interruptions this class experienced during their final year on campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This achievement demonstrates the tenacity and generosity of UGA’s newest alumni.

“It’s amazing that we achieved 2,977 donors this year, especially having to do everything virtually,” said Autumn Pressley, president of the Student Alumni Council (SAC). “Kevin, the Senior Signature Chair on SAC, did an amazing job putting together a campaign and promoting it. His efforts were definitely the driving force that helped us exceed our goal.”

Senior Signature was established in 1991 with just several hundred donors in its first year. Since that time, more than 37,000 students have participated. Each year, graduating seniors are asked to “make their mark” on UGA by donating $50. Of that gift, $20 is directed to an endowed fun supporting student programming and the other portion can be designated to a specific school, college, department, program, or scholarship that the student wishes to support.

Join us in congratulating and thanking the Class of 2020 for this record-breaking effort. Ring the bell!

UGA Alumni Association welcomes new volunteers to board of directors and leadership councils

The University of Georgia Alumni Association Board of Directors recently welcomed Kevin Abernathy, Elliot Marsh, and Charlita Stephens-Walker as new board members. In addition, 16 new alumni volunteers have joined the Black Alumni Leadership Council, Women of UGA Leadership Council, and the Young Alumni Leadership Council. 

“These graduates reflect the characteristics of a true Bulldog: committed, caring and spirited,” said Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of alumni relations. “They are leaders in their communities, and they will bring an important voice to these leadership groups as we seek to foster a supportive and inclusive community for the more than 332,000 living alumni around the world. I’m looking forward to working with each of them.” 

Kevin Abernethy served as president of the Student Government Association before graduating from UGA in 1999. Today, he is an assistant U.S. attorney with the Middle District of Georgia, defending federal agencies and recovering assets for the U.S. Treasury. Abernethy participates in the UGA Mentor Program, was named to UGA’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2013, completed the Harvard Kennedy School’s Emerging Leaders program, is on the School of Public and International Affairs Alumni Board of Directors, and serves on the advisory board for UGA’s vice president of student affairs. 


A Statesboro, Georgia, native, Elliott Marsh earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and a master’s degree in agricultural leadership from UGA. Today, Marsh is a financial advisor with Edward Jones. He has earned several honors, including the J.W. Fanning Distinguished Young Professional Award from the Agricultural Economics Association of Georgia, and was named to the 40 Under 40 lists for both UGA and Georgia Trend Magazine. Marsh is a past president of UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Alumni Association. 



Charlita Stephens-Walker earned an undergraduate degree in public relations from UGA and is now the national director of corporate and cause partnerships for Boys & Girls Clubs of America. She is an Alliance Theatre trustee and is on the board of Women in Film and Television Atlanta. She guides students through the UGA Mentor Program and is a charter member of The 1961 Club, a giving society established by the UGA Black Alumni Leadership Council. She resides in Decatur, Georgia. 


The following alumni will join the leadership councils for the UGA Alumni Association’s three affinity groups that seek to build relationships with specific alumni populations in the metro Atlanta area:   

Black Alumni Leadership Council  


Ashley Noel Carter (BSA ’10), Army National Guard military officer and contractor, U.S. Army, McDonough, Georgia.  


Stacey Chavis (MSL ’19), managing director, Campaign Academy, Brookhaven, Georgia.  


Corinna Ellis (AB ’92), senior mortgage loan officer in the financial services industry, Sandy Springs, Georgia.  


Extriara Gates (MSW ’11), behavioral health and family support manager, Bobby Dodd Institute; owner, Lavender Grove Psychotherapy, Atlanta, Georgia.  


Sara Hall (BSW ’09, MSW ’11), clinical social worker, hematology and bone marrow transplantation, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.  


Shayla Hill (BBA ’08), assistant director of digital strategy, Georgia Institute of Technology, Tucker, Georgia.

Women of UGA Leadership Council  


Kim Eilers (BSED ’95, MED ’97), real estate agent, Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty, Smyrna, Georgia.  


Cecilia Epps (BS ’08), freelance sign language interpreter, Lithonia, Georgia.


Christy Hulsey (ABJ ’97), creative director, Colonial House of Flowers, Marietta, Georgia.  


Crystal Ivey (MBA ’14), brand manager for Diet Coke, The Coca-Cola Company, Conyers, Georgia.  


Stephanie Jackson (BBA ’13, MACC ’14), land finance analyst, Ashton Woods Homes, Brookhaven, Georgia.  

Young Alumni Leadership Council  


John Bowden (BBA ’13, BBA ’13), associate broker, Harry Norman Realtors, Atlanta, Georgia. 


Maranie Brown (BSFCS ’12), digital program manager, You Are Here, Smyrna, Georgia. 


Morgan Cook (BBA ’15, MBA ’19), senior risk analyst, Beecher Carlson, Atlanta, Georgia.   


Maxwell Mitchell (BBA ’12, MACC ’13), mergers and acquisitions manager, Deloitte, Atlanta, Georgia.  


Pierce Persons (ABJ ’14), director of operations, Room 422, Atlanta, Georgia.  


To view the full list of UGA Alumni Association board members visit alumni.uga.edu/board-of-directors and alumni.uga.edu/networks for the complete list of leadership council members.

Former UGA football star Matthew Stafford pledges $1.5 million to alma mater

Photo: Quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions throws a pass over the defense of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 14, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Former University of Georgia quarterback and current Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford and wife Kelly, a former UGA cheerleader, have committed to a gift to the university totaling $1.5 million.

The gift benefits a variety of areas and is highlighted by a significant contribution to an ambitious new social justice program launched by the UGA Athletic Association.

“Kelly and I have thought a lot about how we can improve our society and make a meaningful impact on the current social situation. Each and every time, we came back to education, and there’s no better place to create that kind of positive change than UGA,” said Matthew Stafford. “When we learned more about this program and others across campus, we were happy to lend our support.”

The primary goal of the new program is to continue developing an environment that will effect meaningful change in the areas of areas of diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice for all of the Association’s members, including student-athletes, coaches and staff.

“We are incredibly grateful to Matthew and Kelly for their support of this important program and the university as a whole,” said J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity. “Their generosity will create positive experiences for many students across multiple areas at UGA and will ensure our student-athletes continue to enjoy exceptional experiences on campus.”

In addition to helping launch UGA Athletics’ social justice program, the Staffords’ gift includes a donation to the Magill Society to support the Butts-Mehre Expansion Project. The project will add a greatly expanded weight room, locker room, meeting rooms, coaches’ offices and sports medicine facility, as well as a number of other improvements for the football program.

The Staffords’ pledge will create two Georgia Commitment Scholarships as well. These scholarships will provide critical support to students who are unable to afford the full cost of attendance at UGA even when they have financial aid, such as a HOPE or Zell Miller scholarship or Federal Pell Grants.

The UGA Spirit Program Operational Endowment also will receive a donation as part of the Staffords’ commitment. The endowment provides general support for UGA Cheerleading.

“Matthew and Kelly Staffords’ pledge demonstrates the commitment of our alumni to their alma mater and to making a positive difference in the world,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “I deeply appreciate their support of UGA’s efforts to nurture a diverse and inclusive campus culture and to promote academic access and success for all students.”

UGA Mentor Program celebrates successful first year

The UGA Mentor Program, the University of Georgia’s first comprehensive mentorship initiative, allows students to form meaningful mentoring relationships with experienced UGA alumni. The program launched on August 21, 2019, and thanks to the support of the university community, it far exceeded many of its inaugural goals. Since the program’s launch, over 2,000 students and 2,400 mentors have registered and more than 1,500 mentoring relationships have been created.

Over the past year, students have reported many positive results from joining the UGA Mentor Program. Over 97% of mentees indicated gaining an appreciation for mentoring as a personal and professional development tool. A mentee explained, “My mentor really helped me gain an understanding of how to start preparing for life beyond the classroom.” As a result of participating in the UGA Mentor Program, 95% of mentors agree that their experience with the program inspired them to strengthen their relationship with the university. One mentor said, “I feel a closer tie to the university and my impact on the student body there.”

With a new academic year starting, the program is seeking new participants–both students and alumni. As we navigate an uncertain future, the UGA Mentor Program will continue providing students with an avenue to build professional and personal networks, explore career interests, and strengthen the Bulldog community while fostering a culture of mentoring across the university.  For more information and to get involved, please visit mentor.uga.edu.

stats from 1st year of UGA Mentor Program
stats for 1st year of UGA Mentor Program

 

About the UGA Mentor Program

The UGA Mentor Program, an initiative of President Jere W. Morehead, was established in 2019 to connect students and alumni. Students complete a mentoring orientation session and are granted access to a database of alumni who have committed to mentoring a student for a 16-week period. Students search for and select a mentor based on their profile in the database. When a mentoring pair is established, the student benefits from the wisdom shared by a graduate who has taken the journey they are now navigating. Alumni enjoy the opportunity to invest in the next generation and see students’ dreams take root. To learn more, visit mentor.uga.com. Connecting the Bulldog family. That’s our commitment.

Alumnus Kyle Wiley expands technology access for COVID-19 researchers

Kyle Wiley (AB ’11) is the senior advisor to the chief commercialization officer at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and is an integral part of the DOE’s response to COVID-19. Wiley and his team have given researchers access to powerful computing resources, including two of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, to boost research during a period which relies on accelerated timelines and innovation.

Wiley’s role is to offer strategic advice to the CCO, to speak to external parties on behalf of the Office of Technology Transitions, and to engage with the 17 national DOE labs on a variety of initiatives. Like many others, his responsibilities have shifted in the face of a pandemic and Wiley is now a part of the battle against COVID-19.

Kyle Wiley tours a Shell ethane cracker plant in Pennsylvania.

Kyle Wiley tours a Shell ethane cracker plant in Pennsylvania as part of his work with the U.S. Department of Energy.

Wiley and his team prioritized expanding access to resources for public and private researchers across the country. This included providing resources to those looking for innovative ways to combat COVID-19 through the DOE’s Lab Partnering Service and COVID-19 Technical Assistance Program (CTAP). These initiatives give access to vital resources, experienced researchers, and information about facilities that may be useful in fighting the pandemic.

CTAP provides funding to DOE’s national lab system to assist non-DOE entities working to combat the virus. It also allows national researchers to offer assistance to U.S.-based entities facing technical challenges. Their team has seen the most success in two areas: supercomputing (the HPC COVID-19 Consortium) and technical assistance. The HPC COVID-19 Consortium is a private-public partnership between the federal government, industry and academic leaders to provide researchers access to high-performance computing resources. This partnership enables extensive research and modeling to understand COVID-19’s threat and create strategies to address it. The program has several active projects.

Wiley’s office has granted researchers access to the computational capacity to support research programs that are studying the virus. Meanwhile, DOE scientists are studying components of the virus to understand its replication process. Relying on previous experience from modeling of other infectious diseases, they can better understand how COVID-19 might behave and the supercomputers allow for quicker testing and effective drug screening.

Even as Wiley works on projects related to COVID-19, he continues his work with the technology commercialization fund and raises awareness for partnerships among minority business centers. The technology commercialization fund supports programs for applied energy research, technology development, demonstration and commercial application helping to mature promising energy technologies with potential for high impact.

Wiley’s road to the DOE began as a political science student at UGA. With the help of one of his professors, former UGA faculty member Morgan Marietta, he landed an internship with then-Congressman Paul Broun (BS ’67). That work experience, combined with an understanding of political science he gained from his time at UGA, have been instrumental to his career in the nation’s capital.

Prior to joining the DOE, Wiley held a number of positions, including assistant to the president of the Heritage Foundation, a Koch Associate at the Charles Koch Institute, and a specialist in Barnes & Thornburg’s Government Services and Federal Relations practice.

His work just goes to show: Dawgs never hesitate to jump into action, innovating and assisting in times of need.

Previewing the (new!) 2020 UGA football schedule

It seemed in doubt for a while, but for the moment, Georgia football is on the horizon.

The COVID-19 pandemic has required a dramatic reappraisal of fall sports by colleges and universities across the country, but after much deliberation, the Southeastern Conference is moving forward with fall football, unveiling reconfigured 10-game, conference-only schedules for its 14 members on August 17.

Let’s begin with the major caveat: this is as tentative as tentative gets. As public health conditions change in the shadow of COVID-19, so too will college football conditions. But let’s assume that things go as well as can be hoped, and we see full-powered college football in 2020. What do our Bulldogs face?

University of Arkansas

Saturday, Sep. 26, 2020 | 4PM ET | SEC Network
Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium – Fayetteville, AR

Arkansas RazorbacksFor many Georgia fans, it may seem a little cruel that in the Razorbacks’ first season under head coach Sam Pittman— beloved former offensive line coach for UGA—they would open their season against the formidable Bulldogs. Blame COVID-19 if you want, but the Dawgs should walk into and out of Fayetteville comfortably, as the Razorbacks have lost 19 consecutive SEC games and lost several key players on a defense that finished last year ranked 110th in total defense.

Auburn University

Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 | 7:30PM ET | ESPN
Sanford Stadium – Athens, GA

Auburn Tigers

Things were already going to be strange with this matchup—it’s been 83 years since this game was played in October—but now with the schedule shake-up, the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry becomes a week 2 matchup. It will be a notable contest for another reason, however: this is Georgia’s 125th game against the Auburn Tigers. The last 15 contests against the Plainsmen have favored the Dawgs: UGA is 12-3 since 2006, a record that would likely surprise most of Bulldog Nation. In that same time period, however, the Bulldogs have never gone more than 4 games without giving one up to the Tigers. After winning three in a row, can Kirby keep the streak alive, or will shouts of War Eagle drown out the Chapel Bell?

University of Tennessee

Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020
Sanford Stadium – Athens, GA

The unchecked UT dominance of the 90s has waned ever since Verron Haynes planted a hobnail boot into the checkered end zone of Neyland Stadium: Georgia is 13-6 against the Vols since 2001, and our last three contests have been decided by an average of 32 points. That said, after last season’s loss to the Dawgs, Tennessee reeled off a 6-1 record—an impressive feat after early season losses to BYU and Georgia State. If Jeremy Pruitt has gotten the Volunteers to turn a corner, Tennessee could give UGA much more of a game this go-round. But without the time and structure of the typical offseason where that corner-turning usually occurs…

University of Alabama

Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020 | 8PM | CBS
Bryant-Denny Stadium – Tuscaloosa, AL

The last time the Georgia Bulldogs went to Tuscaloosa, they left on an overtime, game-winning bomb from Matt Stafford to Mikey Henderson. Since then, as Dawg fans are well aware, things have been all Bama in this series, which stands at 40-25-4 all-time in the Crimson Tide’s favor. Any trip to Bryant-Denny is difficult, but this one may be even more challenging than our originally scheduled one—at least then there was a possibility of catching early-season Bama napping. As it stands now, though, this game will likely see two heavyweights tuned up and ready for high-level football.

University of Kentucky

Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020
Kroger Field – Lexington, KY

Kentucky WildcatsAfter a 10-3 year in 2018, Mark Stoops’ Wildcats regressed a bit in 2019 with a 7-5 record. This was mostly expected, as the Cats lost a number of all-timers on both sides of the ball to the NFL Draft. Kentucky loses another playmaker this year in Lynn Bowden, the dynamic WR/QB who gave defenses fits. Well, MOST defenses: Georgia handled Bowden and Kentucky in a miserable, soggy game in 2019. This game lines up as a classic “trap game” for the Dawgs, who will be coming off of an undoubtedly grueling, highly anticipated game against the Tide and could overlook the ‘Cats as they look ahead to the bye week and the Gators after that.

University of Florida

Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020 | 3:30PM ET | CBS
TIAA Bank Field – Jacksonville, FL

Florida GatorsUnfortunately, this new schedule doesn’t allow the Georgia-Florida game to fall directly on Halloween, which always feels like the appropriate time for this match: hordes of lizard creatures assemble, draped in rags of garish orange and blue. The good guys in red and black will fight to extend Georgia’s win streak to 4, which would be the longest streak in this series in over a decade. Dan Mullen has steadily improved the Gators since his arrival in 2018, and our last game was decided by a single touchdown, so this figures to be yet another hotly contested match on the bank of the St. Johns River.

University of Missouri

Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020
Faurot Field – Columbia, MO

Missouri TigersSince Missouri joined the SEC in 2012, the Tigers have only managed one win in eight games against the Bulldogs. But those games all saw either Gary Pinkel or Barry Odom at the helm for Mizzou, and now head coach Eli Drinkwitz will lead the Tigers. Drinkwitz served in various assistant roles for over a decade at a variety of schools before taking over the Appalachian State Mountaineers last season. In his one season at App State, his team set a Sun Belt record for wins (12), won the conference and became the first-ever Sun Belt program to earn a Top 20 ranking in the AP poll.

Mississippi State University

Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020
Sanford Stadium – Athens, GA

Mississippi State BulldogsOne of the more exciting SEC developments in the last year was Mike Leach’s arrival in Starkville. This is actually Leach’s second stint in the conference—he was Kentucky’s offensive coordinator/QB coach from 1997-1998, when he and head coach Hal Mumme turned quarterback Tim Couch into a no. 1 NFL Draft pick (you read that right). It remains to be seen how well Leach’s prolific offense translates to the modern-day SEC, but even without his high-flying scheme, MSU already had senior running back Kylin Hill, the SEC’s leading rusher in 2019. And Leach’s new defensive coordinator, Zach Arnett, led a San Diego State defense that, over the last two seasons, was among the nation’s best in multiple categories. Don’t be surprised if this game gives us some trouble.

University of South Carolina

Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020
Williams-Brice Stadium – Columbia, SC

The Dawgs will travel to their second Columbia of the year with one thing in mind: revenge. The 2019 USC-UGA game set off a wave of soul-searching and second-guessing that still lingers in the minds of many Bulldog fans and, ultimately, became the reason Georgia was kept out of the College Football Playoff. Despite UGA holding a massive advantage in the all-time series (51-19-2), this game now looms large for the Dawgs. But with former Georgia QB and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo joining former Bulldogs Will Muschamp, Bryan McClendon and Thomas Brown on the USC coaching staff, the Gamecocks could have a rejuvenated offense, so the South Carolina of 2020 may be more difficult than the 2019 edition.

Vanderbilt University

Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020
Sanford Stadium – Athens, GA

This isn’t who we normally close the season with, but I guess we can trade one set of nerds for another. The ‘Dores and the Dawgs face-off Between The Hedges for their 81st meeting. This series has been one-sided for decades, with the Bulldogs winning 43 of the last 50 contests. Still, Kirby is 3-1 against Vandy, and head coach Derek Mason is good for one or two upsets a year, so UGA will need to give an honest effort to make sure they don’t give Vanderbilt a reason to extend Mason’s contract.

More than ever before, make sure to stay connected with the UGA Alumni Association this season. COVID-19 will change how we enjoy the game this year, but the Alumni Association will be rolling out a variety of ways, before and throughout the season, to bring the “Saturday in Athens” feeling directly to you, wherever you are. From the hedges to your home, we Never Bark Alone! Go Dawgs!

COVID-19 researcher Erin Mordecai (BS ’07) named to 40 Under 40

Erin Mordecai (BS ’07), an infectious diseases researcher at Stanford University, was named to the University of Georgia 40 Under 40 Class of 2020. But this isn’t her first time making headlines this year.

As an assistant professor of biology, Mordecai studies how major human-caused global changes, like climate change, land use change or global movement, affect infectious diseases in humans and wildlife. Using innovative mathematical and statistical modeling, she seeks to understand how humans are changing the world and how those changes affect human health.

In March, as the nation came to a grinding halt due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mordecai saw an opportunity to contribute her expertise during a time of uncertainty. Mordecai led her team of infectious diseases researchers to develop a COVID-19 intervention model, which was then made available online. Her interactive website allowed users to model the spread of COVID-19 over time using non-pharmaceutical interventions, like social distancing and quarantine. During a time in which many government officials and members of the general public were not yet familiar with these strategies, her website was critical for communities in her region. Wary of the resurgence of the 1918 flu pandemic, when most major cities ended control measures within eight weeks, Mordecai wanted to help people understand the effectiveness of long-term strategies.

“Our model, and historical evidence, shows that fully lifting control measures at any point in the epidemic could lead to a second wave,” Mordecai said. “When you have a population where most of the people remain susceptible, fully returning to business as usual is extremely risky, and could result in many lives lost unnecessarily.”

Screenshot of the interactive website developed by Mordecai’s team. Source: https://covid-measures.github.io/.

 As communities continue assessing how long social distancing measures need to be in place, Mordecai believes it is important to recognize how to prevent a resurgence, especially when a widespread vaccine is not available yet.

“There’s a lag of about three weeks between an intervention being lifted and its resulting effect on deaths,” Mordecai said. “Policymakers won’t be able to begin assessing the results of their actions until three weeks later, when the virus could have spread widely through the population.”

In order to prevent that problem, communities are developing processes to manage a potential second wave.

“There may be some potential to bring a second peak under control and respond more quickly if testing is sufficiently widespread prior to reopening and if it’s combined with rigorous contact tracing and infected isolation,” Mordecai said.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel for communities eager to return to normalcy. However, communities must be prepared to move to a test-and-trace system, in which testing is widespread and those who encounter sick individuals are isolated. They also must be able to intensify and relax social distancing and quarantine measures based on the number of hospitalizations and deaths.

“Our work shows that we could considerably relax the level of social distancing we’re practicing in the general population if we could more comprehensively test all symptomatic and high-risk individuals for COVID-19 and isolate them to prevent transmission,” Mordecai explained.

Mordecai’s model has become a useful tool for San Francisco Bay Area public officials as it allows them to compare different strategies, while seeing how their policies now will affect their options down the road.

At UGA, Mordecai was a Foundation Fellow, a Ramsey scholar and an honors student, earning an honors interdisciplinary studies degree in mathematical biology. She went on to earn her Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“Fortunately for me, UGA remains a world leader in the ecology of infectious disease, and these deep research connections continue to bring me back to campus at least once a year,” Mordecai said.

 

Vision and generosity grow for generations

Today, we celebrate Dan B. Franklin (BSC ’38, BBA ’62, BLA ’63) and the way his vision and generosity demonstrate how investing in the future can keep your hard-earned money working for generations. A bequest from his estate established the Dan B. Franklin Distinguished Professorship in the College of Environment + Design.

Who was Dan B. Franklin?

Franklin first received a degree in Economics from the University of Georgia in 1938. After a successful career working for the R.C. Cola Company, he returned to the university and, in 1963, earned a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture with a concentration in landscapes and gardens.

A prolific and celebrated garden designer in Atlanta and throughout the Southeast, Franklin received numerous awards during his long career, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Georgia Chapter of American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). He was also inducted as a Fellow with ASLA, the organization’s highest honor. In 1991, he received the UGA College of Environment + Design’s Distinguished Alumni Medal.

Franklin’s love of UGA and for the profession of landscape design led to the creation of a lasting gift. The professorship named in his honor is intended to help a scholar/educator who shares his passion for plant life promote education, research and service excellence in landscape architecture, garden design and horticulture in particular. Meet the current Dan B. Franklin Distinguished Professor, Brad Davis, and learn more about the positive impact Franklin’s gift continues to have.

Discover how easy it can be to leave a legacy that counts.

Stafford, Smart endow new social justice program for UGA Athletics

This story was originally published on the University of Georgia Athletics site on August 14, 2020.

The University of Georgia Athletic Association has launched an ambitious program that seeks to implement strategic initiatives in the areas of diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice, according to an announcement Friday by UGA J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity.

To fund the cost of the initiative in perpetuity, initial significant gifts totaling $500,000 have been made by former UGA quarterback Matthew Stafford and his wife Kelly ($350,000) and current Bulldog head coach Kirby Smart and his wife Mary Beth ($150,000). These commitments are part of larger gifts made by both the Staffords and Smarts, the specifics of which will be forthcoming as they are finalized.

“The generosity of Matthew and Coach Smart allows the Athletic Association to implement strategic initiatives in diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice,” said McGarity.  “These gifts will help the Athletic Association educate, implement dynamic programming, and execute service opportunities to achieve our goals, those being to foster critical consciousness, cultural competence and further developing change within the Athletic Association and our greater community.”

“I am grateful to Matthew Stafford and Coach Kirby Smart for their generous gifts to fund this important initiative and am excited about the opportunity the program presents for us to promote an inclusive culture among our student-athletes, coaches, and staff,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead.

The primary goal of this program is to continue developing an environment that will effect meaningful change in these areas for all the Association’s members, including student-athletes, coaches and staff.

“The Athletic Association remains committed to leading a sustained dialogue on diversity, inclusion and innovation in what continues to be historic times for our nation,” said Matt Borman,  Deputy Athletic Director for Development.  “The significant gifts from Matthew and Coach Smart will allow the Athletic Association to apply important initiatives in these critical areas. We have exceptional student-athletes, staff, and community leaders who will help us inspire, motivate, and stimulate meaningful action moving forward in this effort.”

Submit a photo wearing a UGA-themed mask

Wondering how you can help keep yourself and others safe as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic? One simple way is to wear a mask! 

Masks reduce the spread of COVID-19 from respiratory droplets, especially in public settings—like a college campus. Wearing a mask, combined with social distancing (6 feet) and frequent sanitation, is critical as we navigate the pandemic. Some people may not know they are infected due to a lack of symptoms, so it’s important to take precautions and correctly wear a mask at all times, especially in instances when social distancing may be difficult. If wearing a mask is not possible due to mental or physical conditions, consult a health care provider for alternative safety methods. 

Let’s show our strength as a Bulldog Nation; masks are a symbol of respect for our family, friends, and fellow Dawgs. 

Wearing a UGA-themed mask? Send us a photo to be featured on our socials!