University of Georgia alumna Kelly Layton made a significant investment in the future of the program that gave her her start with a $500,000 gift to create the Layton Graphic Design Endowment.
“Georgia has a great graphic design program, and more people need to know about it,” said Layton. “If you want to pursue art, UGA presents such a great opportunity: a quality program, a rich campus community and a well-rounded, liberal-arts education.”
The endowment will provide substantial support for the graphic design area—part of UGA’s Lamar Dodd School of Art. Graphic design is the most high-demand, selective major in the School of Art, and with her contribution, Layton hopes to both elevate the program and inspire future artists and designers.
“This gift will be transformative for graphic design and our students as we have minimal to no discretionary funds,” said Julie Spivey, graphic design professor and area chair. “We truly cannot thank Kelly enough.”
Layton, who received her bachelor of fine arts degree in 1990, is a longtime donor to the university along with her husband, Brent. Her gift came after a campus visit to the School of Art.
“I had not been to see the graphic design area since I was in school,” said Layton. “And after I went, met with the professors, listened to what the area’s needs were and sat in on a class, I knew the difference I could make and knew I had to contribute.”
Layton’s gift is the largest single commitment in the graphic design area’s history. Spivey, along with the rest of the graphic design faculty, believe that the endowment will help to further improve the small, but accomplished area of study.
Layton herself secured a design position at BellSouth after she graduated, and for half a decade, she climbed the ranks there until the tragic death of her younger sister led her to re-evaluate her life. She decided then to devote herself to supporting her family—she and Brent had a son two years prior to this decision and found they were expecting another two weeks after—and helping Brent grow his consulting business.
“I made sure to keep in touch with my art,” said Layton. “I made logos for my sons’ sports teams, did some volunteer graphic design for their schools, made logos for friends, calligraphy for weddings, things like that.”
The business she helped her husband grow opened doors that eventually led to him becoming president and COO of a company ranked 26 among the 2022 Fortune 500.
Her family moved to St. Louis in 2010 and built a life there, but Georgia was never far from their minds—they continued to cheer for the Dawgs, and her oldest son even earned a master of science in business analytics degree last spring. Thanks in part to one of the Laytons’ neighbors, that affinity became something more in the last five years.
“Our neighbor was talking to us about all these organizations he was involved with, all this philanthropy, and he said, ‘First, you learn. Then, you earn. Then, you return,’” said Layton. “And I thought that was a great lesson. And so my husband and I decided: we’ve been blessed to earn a lot, we’re doing well, now we need to start returning.”
Since 2017, they have made numerous substantial gifts to UGA, committing to support—among other areas—athletics, scholarships targeting UGA students from their hometown, UGA’s study abroad program in Spain and now the graphic design endowment.
“The more involved we’ve gotten, the more connected we feel, and the more we want to do,” said Layton. “It’s been such a joy to get reconnected with the university in all these ways, to visit and feel the excitement of being on campus. We just feel like we’re home again, and this is where we want to be.”