Jack and Nancy Fontaine are the founders of the John Fontaine Jr. Center for Alcohol Awareness and Education, which is housed within the University Health Center and the Division of Student Affairs and focuses on prevention, early intervention and recovery support for issues related to alcohol and other drugs.
The Fontaines opened the Center to honor the memory of their son, John Fontaine Jr., who was tragically killed in a car accident after riding with a friend who had been drinking. Jack had worked through his own problems with alcohol, acknowledging his participation in a problematic drinking culture on campus ultimately led to him abandoning his studies at the University of Georgia in the 1970s.
Fueled by these difficult personal experiences and pushing through their grief, Jack and Nancy sought to make a difference by focusing on bettering the culture on campus. To do so, the Fontaine family has donated more than $4 million to enhance and expand the university’s alcohol education initiative.
“Nancy and I wanted to create awareness and education around drugs and alcohol in hopes to keep a promise we made to John,” said Jack. “The promise was to get involved and reduce tragic phone calls to parents. The foundation of this promise started at UGA in 2005.”
One of those initiatives was the Fontaine Center, which promotes a healthier campus culture and delivers a substantive impact through awareness and education for parents, children and the school. Today, the Center offers a variety of services for students, such as online modules, alcohol and substance abuse prevention programming, relationship and sexual violence prevention services and other online and in-person opportunities.
“Part of the learning experience at the University of Georgia is the growth of character and responsibility,” says President Jere W. Morehead. “We are grateful to Jack and Nancy for their role in ensuring our students have excellent resources and educational programming to be safe and successful during their time here.”
These programs, which assist students as they navigate their own college experiences, offer mentoring services, training opportunities for handling difficult scenarios and patient-centered support services for those in recovery. The Bystander Intervention program, for instance, teaches peers to recognize potentially risky situations and learn how to step up and help someone in need while maintaining their own safety.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fontaine Center adjusted to better serve students in an era of social distancing and remote learning. As demand for mental wellness increased, the Center hosted confidential counseling and education sessions, engaged with students through social media and hosted virtual yoga, mindfulness classes and nutrition programs.
The family’s impact stretches beyond the confines of the campus. The Fontaines have established programs related to stress management, well-being and alcohol and drug education at high schools in Athens, Atlanta and Houston, the city where the couple resides. Over the last three years, Jack and Nancy have also created BrainAbouts to complement the work established at the Fontaine Center. BrainAbouts is a customizable, web-based program addressing 18 high-risk behaviors for lower, middle, and high school students and parents.
Jack and Nancy met in 1980 when the former was working for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company. Their second son, Harris, graduated from UGA in 2011, while their daughter, Elizabeth, graduated in 2013. The Fontaines have three grandchildren, Conway, Johnny and Jack.
“Part of the Fontaine’s legacy is the thousands of UGA students who have gone through the Fontaine Center and have had their lives forever changed.”
– Victor Wilson (BSW ’82, MEd ’87), Vice President for Student Affairs at UGA