When I joined the BALC three years ago, I did so because of my deep desire to give back to UGA and students in a meaningful way. The birth of the 1961 Club inspired me to re-engage. As I begin my tenure as president, what inspires me today is YOU. Since I joined the council, I’ve seen firsthand how scholarship recipients’ lives were changed because YOU donated. I witnessed the renaming of the Mary Frances Early College of Education because YOU deemed it important. I’ve seen students flourish and avoid unnecessary pitfalls because YOU became a mentor. This is what motivates me. I can do what I do for UGA, because I know that when I call on my fellow Bulldogs, you always answer.

As we approach the 60th anniversary of desegregation at the University of Georgia, I ask all Black alumni to simply RE-ENGAGE. Fellow alumni: our students need us now more than ever. It’s up to all of us to continue to answer the call. Whether it is displacement from COVID-19 or continued racial injustice, our beloved Bulldogs need our voice and our presence. Students need us to speak up and show up in the face of challenges to ensure that the next generation of Bulldogs can reach higher and go farther than the last.

Not long ago, I heard fellow bulldog and president of the Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Jay Bailey, say “start where you are.” Those words rang true to me then and I hope they resonate with you now. With over 16,000 living African American alumni, our ability to make an impact isn’t some distant star out of our reach, our ability to influence change is well within our grasp, and it starts right now, right where we are.

No matter how long it’s been since you passed through the Arch, no matter where you live or work, there is still a place for you at Georgia. Become a mentor to a student as they approach graduation or write a letter to a newly admitted Bulldog and share some words of encouragement. Attend an alumni event (even virtually) and stay connected to this powerful community, or join the 1961 Club to support a current student who will one day pay it forward as an alum. Continue to answer the call. Continue to speak up. Continue to show up. Your presence matters.

Together, I know we can continue to build on the rich legacy of Dr. Hamilton Holmes, Sr. (BS ’63), Charlayne Hunter-Gault (ABJ ’63), Mary Frances Early (MMED ’62, EDS ’67), Deborah Roberts (ABJ ’82), Mayor Otis Johnson (AB ’67), Justice Robert Benham (JD ’70) and Dr. Rogsbert Phillips-Reed (BS ’70). Together, we can create an experience for the future scientists, lawyers, artists, educators, musicians and leaders that will shape our nation and our world. I hope you’ll join us.

Go Dawgs,

Jeff Brown