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Donors make 9,339 gifts on Georgia Giving Day

UGA’s first 24-hour fundraising campaign smashes goals, nets $5.3 million to areas across campus

The University of Georgia’s first institution-wide, 24-hour fundraising effort, Georgia Giving Day, finished at midnight PST on April 1 after receiving 9,339 gifts.

UGA’s goal for its inaugural giving day was 1,785 gifts, but overwhelming support pushed the campaign past its first goal, a second goal of 3,318 and even a third goal of 6,000.

“I’m so grateful to everyone who contributed to this astonishing result, and I want them to know that they are part of more than just a successful fundraising effort,” said Kelly Kerner, UGA vice president for development and alumni relations. “They are now part of a student’s journey to Athens, a community solving local issues through UGA research, a team of students and faculty finishing a project that puts them on the national stage. All these things and many more are made possible with the help of our donors.”

Georgia Giving Day generated $5.3 million in new funding, with gifts going to each of UGA’s 18 schools and colleges. Donors came from 50 states and 16 countries.

Some donors did more than donate, however. UGA alumni chapters across the U.S. organized events for Georgia Giving Day that encouraged attendees to make gifts while participating in a variety of activities. Events from St. Louis to Dallas to Savannah to Boston saw Bulldogs giving back while bowling, brunching, wine tasting and more.

UGA enlisted a number of prominent alumni to promote the effort. UGA head football coach Kirby Smart, broadcasters Deborah Roberts and Maria Taylor, author and Super Bowl champion Malcolm Mitchell and J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Josh Brooks—all Georgia Giving Day donors themselves—helped reach out to UGA supporters.

“When Bulldogs come together, our wins extend beyond the football field into the very heart of what UGA stands for: a better quality of life for everyone,” said Smart in a Georgia Giving Day promotional video. “With all of the Bulldog Nation working together, there’s no limit to who and where we can help.”

Students played a notable role in the day’s success through the annual Senior Signature campaign, which allows graduating students to have their names included on a plaque in Tate Plaza with a $30 gift supporting UGA and the school or college of their choice. The campaign’s final day was March 31, and thanks to Georgia Giving Day efforts, it acquired nearly 22 percent of its student donor goal in a single day.

Those who were unable to donate on Georgia Giving Day can still make a difference at UGA. Visit givingday.uga.edu to make a gift, learn more about Georgia Giving Day and watch a special video from Coach Smart.

UGA sorority alumnae establish endowed scholarship

More than 100 alumnae of the University of Georgia’s Eta Xi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., gave a total of over $50,000 to establish the 1973 Eta Xi Alumni Association Inc. Georgia Commitment Scholarship, which will provide need-based aid to UGA students in perpetuity.

“I am grateful to UGA’s Alpha Kappa Alpha alumnae, who are setting an outstanding example of generosity at our university,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Their support of current students through the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program will make a lasting impact on the lives of UGA students as well as their families and communities.”

Near the beginning of 2021, Eta Xi alumnae set out to raise $50,000 by the end of the year to create a scholarship that would help ease students’ financial burdens and introduce different perspectives to the campus community. Once that goal was met, their collective gift was matched by the UGA Foundation (UGAF) with an additional $50,000 through the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program, thanks to funding provided in August 2021 by the UGAF board of trustees.

The scholarship will benefit students in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and the first recipient will be named in fall 2022.

“Giving to student scholarships enables me to honor the rich history of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at UGA through Eta Xi Chapter while also celebrating current students,” said Natalie Lewis (ABJ ‘91), a member of the Black Alumni Leadership Council and life member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. “As an alumna, I am truly proud to support UGA students’ success and grateful for all the donors to this effort. The tenacity and drive—particularly of students of color—are remarkable in these tough times.”

Since surpassing their fundraising goal, the Eta Xi alumnae group has continued raising support for scholarships. They are currently raising funds for a second Eta Xi alumnae scholarship, which will be a merit-based scholarship to support students who are committed to furthering the advancement of girls and women in their community and in higher education.

“I give to UGA because I am a firm believer that education and exposure are the keys that unlock potential and opportunity,” said V. Gail Bibbs Holmes (BBA ’92), Eta Xi alumna. “When a young person is fortunate enough to interact and learn with people from all over the world, their perspective grows, their thoughts expand and, hopefully, they are positively influenced by this experience. Unfortunately, there are still too many young people who have the desire and capability to attend college but do not have the financial means.”

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. was the first Greek-letter organization established by African American college women. Sixty-five years after its founding, on January 13, 1973, the Eta Xi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha was instituted at UGA by women who sought to cultivate and encourage high scholastic and ethical standards and promote unity and friendship among college women.

Today, Eta Xi members and alumnae strive to build upon the sorority’s legacy through a commitment to scholarship, leadership and service to the university and Athens-Clarke County communities. The need-based scholarship they have established and the merit-based scholarship to come are the latest demonstrations of that commitment.

Scholarship support allows deserving UGA students to focus more on their coursework and participate in extracurriculars that promote growth and experiential learning opportunities. To learn more about supporting student scholarships at UGA, visit give.uga.edu/removing-barriers.

Family ties lead to lesson in giving

Parents’ philanthropy inspires new generation of Bulldogs

Jeff and Allison Mitchell live on a steady diet of maroon and orange in the college town of Blacksburg, Virginia, where both Jeff and Allison are Virginia Tech alumni, regularly attending football games to cheer on the Hokies. Despite this familiar connection with Virginia Tech, their daughter Elizabeth Grace (ABJ ’21) elected to forge her own path at the University of Georgia.

Elizabeth Grace’s time in Athens offered her an education needed to succeed beyond graduation and it provided valuable lessons around the importance of giving and service. So, while Jeff and Allison may have earned their degrees elsewhere, they’re now building a legacy of giving alongside their daughter at UGA.

New Colors, Same Focus

When Elizabeth Grace arrived on campus, Jeff and Allison instantly joined the Bulldog family, swapping out their Hokies’ attire for red and black. They regularly visited the Classic City during Elizabeth Grace’s four years in Athens, engaging, giving and serving, primarily through service on UGA’s Parents Leadership Council, to demonstrate what a legacy of giving looks like.

“We wanted Elizabeth Grace to understand that supporting her university is something she needed to take the long-term view on,” Jeff said. “Don’t put it off and think ‘I’ll start giving later;’ get started now.”

Giving back is as natural for Jeff and Allison as breathing; they provide ample philanthropic support to a host of institutions and organizations, including their alma mater. They lead by example to ensure those lessons of generous giving are passed on to Elizabeth Grace.

Creating a New Legacy

As graduation neared, Jeff and Allison wanted to honor their daughter’s time at UGA and illustrate why giving is important. The Mitchells decided to recognize her with a legacy gift — a philanthropic gift made in honor of her time at UGA — establishing the Elizabeth Grace Mitchell Student Support Fund.

They sought her involvement, working with her to identify what she wanted the fund to address on campus. Elizabeth Grace recommended that the fund provide financial support to students in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication who are majoring in her field of study, entertainment and media studies (EMST).

“The Mitchell family’s support of student projects will help us fuel EMST film projects – the very heart of the department’s experiential learning efforts,” said Charles Davis (MA ’92) the dean of the Grady College. “This sort of support takes on increasing importance the more hands-on work we do as a college, so we deeply appreciate the fund and what it signifies.”

photo of the Mitchell family with Grady College Dean Charles Davis

Jeff and Allison Mitchell (far left and right) with their daughter, Elizabeth Grace Mitchell (AB ’21) and Grady College Dean Charles Davis (MA ’92) in December 2021.

The fund also gives the opportunity for Elizabeth Grace to engage philanthropically with UGA right after graduation. She’ll contribute directly to it, allowing her to start her own journey of giving while building a legacy that endures long after she’s graduated.

More Opportunities with PLC

In addition to the legacy gift, the Mitchells joined the Parents Leadership Council (PLC) during Elizabeth Grace’s freshman year. Ultimately, this decision launched the couple’s philanthropic journey at UGA.

The PLC offered the chance for their family to build a meaningful connection with the university, including a social network that Jeff and Allison could trust would support Elizabeth Grace during her time in Athens. The service-oriented group provides funding through parents’ annual gifts to various student programs and initiatives on campus.

In the last decade, the group has awarded more than $3.8 million to undergraduate student organizations and is the top supporter of the President’s Venture Fund. The response to these types of needs, as well as the opportunity to help prioritize what needs should be addressed, resonated with Jeff and Allison. It allowed them to proactively help determine how their contributions improved campus—something they offered their daughter when setting up the Elizabeth Grace Mitchell Student Support Fund.

Forever Connected to the Bulldog Family

For Jeff and Allison, establishing the legacy gift for Elizabeth Grace is the culmination of a series of relationships, experiences and opportunities that ultimately will connect them to UGA for the rest of their lives.

“Everybody knows the University of Georgia, but to have your daughter attend from out-of-state and understand the brand and the legacy here, it’s just special,” Jeff said. “We’ve met many, many passionate UGA alumni, and their joy and passion are infectious. You spend any time here, and you just get it. So, we’re happy to celebrate Elizabeth Grace and support the University of Georgia.”

Jeff and Allison hope their philanthropy will inspire other Bulldog parents to establish their own legacies in honor of their students’ UGA experiences. Doing so enables the next generation to strengthen UGA by creating new avenues to success for future Bulldogs.

Want to know more? Consider being a part of parent philanthropy at UGA and establishing your own legacy gift to benefit future generations of Bulldogs! Learn more about UGA’s Parent Fund and Parent Leadership Council.

Learn More About the Parent Fund Learn More About the PLC

Written by Johnathan McGinty (ABJ ’00)

UGA claims Beat Week victory (again)

It’s always an exciting matchup when UGA and Auburn go head-to-head, and Beat Week 2021 was no exception.

Beat Week is the philanthropic counterpart to “The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry,” and the rules are simple: the university with the most gifts raised during the week leading up to the game wins!

Following our narrow 3,200 to 2,900 victory last season, Auburn was looking to even the series this year—and early on, it appeared they might just do it.

However, the UGA community overcame a slow start and took a Monday afternoon lead, which they never relinquished. The result was a double dose of victory for UGA on and off the field. And when the dust settled in the Gift Accounting office, the final score stood:

  • UGA–2,790
  • Auburn–2,247

A good coach always acknowledges that every win is a team effort, and that’s certainly true for Beat Week. Everyone played a role: alumni, students, parents, faculty, staff, and friends of UGA!

UGA’s student body had an impressive outing worthy of SportsCenter’s Top-10 performances; over 800 students flexed their philanthropic muscles and took part in the effort!

Beat Week raised over $650,000 to over 200 fund designations across campus supporting scholarships, research, academic programming and a lot more; proving that UGA isn’t just No. 1 in the latest AP Poll, but also in generosity.

Thank you to everyone who made Beat Week a success! GO DAWGS!

Written by Evan Tighe (BSED ’08, MA ’11), Senior Director of Annual and Special Giving

A holistic Dawg

Nancy Juneau’s commitment to the University of Georgia is a way of life.

She’s a UGA grad (BSED ’82), a Georgia Bulldogs sports fan and the mother of a UGA alumna. Her company, Juneau Construction, helped grow UGA’s campus and build new residence halls on East Campus. And when she became a UGA Foundation Trustee, she visited every UGA school and college to meet their development directors to learn about what mattered to their area of campus. She followed those discussions by making separate donations in support of each and every school/college. And then, she and her husband, Les, funded four Georgia Commitment Scholarships, and she mentors those scholarship recipients. “There are so many ways you can make a difference!” she always says.

Underscoring her commitment, Nancy also is a member of the Heritage Society. She included language in her will that specifies a gift to the University of Georgia Foundation as part of her estate plan. “Paying it forward and giving others opportunity. This is what is important to me,” Nancy explains. “UGA made it easy and personal.”

Nancy and Les Juneau

What it means to give holistically

A ‘blended gift’ combines annual giving with a planned gift, allowing you to see the impact of your philanthropy today while continuing to support the university’s mission well into the future. The planned giving team in UGA’s Office of Gift and Estate Planning are happy to show you how to give in the way that is most advantageous to you. Just a few minutes of your time can ensure your generosity has the greatest impact now and long after you’re gone.

 

Five things you didn’t know: Institute for Disaster Management

The Institute for Disaster Management, housed in UGA’s College of Public Health, is committed to solving grand challenges on the local, national and global scale by assisting more than 140 hospitals, 100 long-term care facilities and 500 community partners across Georgia in developing emergency response plans.

We sat down with Dr. Curt Harris (BS ’03, PhD ’08), associate professor and director of the institute, to learn how his team is paving the way in disaster training and how additional funding propels his team’s work forward.

The Institute for Disaster Management (IDM) facility boasts a state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center.

The IDM recently moved into the Commissary, a facility on the UGA Health Sciences Campus, which will allow it to expand its research, teaching and service initiatives for community resilience in crisis. The center’s labs and workspaces support students, faculty and disaster management practitioners from around the world.

As the IDM recruits more faculty, staff and students, it needs to secure an unused portion of the building for further expansion. This would include the installation of a simulation center to train students and community partners in scenarios that mimic real-world disaster situations.

“Expansion would allow us to house more faculty and staff and create a simulation center where we would be one of the foremost disaster trainers, not only for the state of Georgia but potentially in the entire United States,” said Harris.

Multi-disciplinary faculty and staff lead the institute.

IDM researchers have an array of expertise ranging from radiation health and mass casualty simulation to psychology and public policy. But they all have a common mission: ensuring that when disaster strikes, help follows.

The collaborative team at IDM is dedicated to furthering research, knowledge and training as it relates to emergency management.

Recent research and training focuses included:

  • Community Disaster Preparedness: IDM designs and implements disaster exercises for hospitals, nursing homes and other health care organizations across the state.
  • Nuclear Attack Simulations: For decades, IDM scientists have conducted research on the consequences of nuclear detonation in urban areas, with a focus on the outcomes of medical casualty distributions.
  • Ebola patient full-scale exercise: IDM tested the notification processes, coordination decisions and resources needed to move patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola using both air (simulated) and ground transportation resources. The methods practiced can be applied to other cases of infectious disease outbreak, like COVID-19.

The IDM was awarded a three-year grant funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Civil Monetary Penalty funds (and extended for another year due to how well-received it’s been).

In 2018, the IDM used the grant to kickstart its Georgia Long Term Care Emergency Preparedness Educational Program (GA LTCEPEP). The mission of the program is to provide preparedness and disaster exercise training to certified caregivers and administrators across the state.

Now in its fourth year, the LTCEP has trained over 1,200 staff members, representing over 80% of Georgia’s certified long-term care facilities. The IDM also delivers emergency preparedness kits (filled with items valued at $1,000 per kit) to participating nursing homes.

IDM's emergency preparedness kit

The IDM delivers these emergency preparedness kits to long-term care facilities across the state.

“The kits are filled with really good resources, like emergency blankets and car battery chargers, that can be used in a disaster setting,” said Harris.

IDM offers one of the only Master of Public Health degrees with a concentration in disaster management.

The IDM teaches courses at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, offering a master’s concentration in disaster management, graduate and undergraduate certificates and an undergraduate minor. The goal is to broaden the emergency response workforce. IDM graduates provide service and leadership in public health around the globe.

“Speaking from the heart, I can say that I moved 800+ miles, away from friends and family, to a state where I didn’t know a single soul or the culture just to come to this program. I researched every school that offered both an MPH and a disaster management curriculum. The University of Georgia’s Institute for Disaster Management was the best in the country for what I wanted to study,” said Christopher Russo (MPH ’19).

The IDM focuses on experiential learning and gives students the opportunity to see, touch and wear equipment needed in the field.

“We provide our students with internships all over the world. We’ve had students go to places like Kenya, Australia and Israel to collaborate on international disaster management projects,” said Harris.

IDM led a community-wide effort to combat COVID-19.

During the pandemic, IDM faculty and staff participated on a COVID-19 task force and donated the majority of their personal protective equipment supplies to response efforts.

“We’re constantly extending resources through training, whether it’s training of our students or community-level training, and we don’t always have the ability to recoup those supplies,” said Harris.

Private support is essential to the IDM’s success.

The IDM relies on donations and contributions from the community in order to ensure a safer tomorrow. The Institute of Disaster Management Fund supports opportunities for special programming, conference attendance, recruitment, professional education, and overall enhancement of the Institute.

Pride Month Spotlight: UGA’s LGBT Resource Center

The University of Georgia aims to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment for students of all backgrounds. There are a variety of resources available to students seeking support and a community on campus, including the LGBT Resource Center. We sat down with Chad Mandala, the center’s director, during Pride Month to learn more about how his team supports UGA students throughout the year.

History

The LGBT Resource Center was established in 2005 to serve as a safe space for LGBT-identified students and their allies. The center is committed to supporting and affirming every member of the UGA community inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression.

The LGBT Resource Center mission is to foster self-discovery and acceptance in a holistic, supportive environment. Located in Memorial Hall in the heart of campus, the center houses an extensive library with entertaining and educational films, books, pamphlets, and health resources. Students enjoy the center’s lounge area to relax, socialize and study between classes.

“It’s a community that has been like a safe haven,” said Tyquavious Kelley (BS ’21), a former student who valued the center.

From empowering students to educating the community, the LGBT Resource Center at UGA ensures that no Dawg barks alone.

“No matter what a student is going through, we are here to remind them that they are loved,” said Mandala.

Programs and resources

The LGBT Resource Center offers resources and programs to meet the needs of the LGBT and ally communities through advocacy, education, and support. Signature events like Sugar Rush and Lavender Graduation advocate for a safer, more equitable climate on campus. Educational programs provide opportunities for the UGA community to address the complicated issues that surround sexual and gender identity. Some of these programs include the student-run radio show, Queeries, and the Lunch with Leaders program, which coordinates a lunch for students and an LGBT-identified leader in the community who shares their coming-out story and career trajectory.

Chad shared a bit about the signature events his team hosts:

  • Sugar Rush: Sugar Rush is a social each September during which first-year students make campus connections over candy. It’s a “sweet” welcome for the newest generation of Bulldogs to the LGBT Resource Center.
  • PRISM: This dialogue group for students who identify as LGBTQ people of color was developed in partnership with the Office of Multicultural Services and Programs to recognize and address intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual identity.
  • Lavender Graduation: Lavender Graduation is a cultural celebration to acknowledge the achievements and contributions of LGBT students on campus. This positive recognition will hopefully encourage graduating students to maintain a connection to UGA, its students, and fellow alumni beyond commencement.
  • Safe Space: This program is a 3.5 hour training for faculty, staff, and students who are interested in learning about gender and sexual identity, homophobia, heterosexism, and how they can support and become an ally for the LGBT community.

Support the LGBT community

The LGBT Resource Center relies on charitable donations to support the rapidly growing student population at UGA.

“As we continue to evolve, we need help. The ability to grow is dependent on alumni who believe in us. Every gift has the ability to transform what we are able to do,” said Mandala.

By donating to the LGBT Resource Center Endowment, you can help to end discrimination and promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer equality on campus. According to Mandala, the fund is one of the most effective ways to remove barriers and open doors for the next generation of Bulldogs because it provides general support for the center, including program expenses, guest speakers, conference expenses, emergency funding to support students in crisis situations, travel, equipment, supplies, etc.

 

Every day is Arbor Day for Select Trees

Arbor Day celebrates nature and encourages people around the world to plant trees. For Select Trees, though, planting trees is a year-round event.  

Select Trees produces high-quality sustainable landscape shade trees in the Southeast and is a wholesaler of Select Sustainable Trees. Curious where you can see some of these trees for yourself? Look no further than UGA’s beautiful campus. Through their tree trust, the company donated more than 770 large caliper oak trees to UGA.  

We talked with Corey Browning, the vice president of Select Trees, to learn more about all things trees.  

Corey BrowningWhat is your favorite part of the planting and growing process of trees?  

My favorite part is probably selecting new cultivars. So as part of what we do at Select Trees, we also have a sister company called Tree Introductions. We find new trees to clone and make new cultivars, and the process of doing that is just evaluating trees in the landscape and seeing what’s working and what’s not working. 

What is one important thing you want people to know about the process of selecting trees that they might now know? 

I think the most important thing that maybe is overlooked is choosing the right tree for the right place. For instance, people plant Crape Myrtles because they like the flower but then they may not realize that it’s a tree and it’s going to get 30 or 40 feet tall. And so, they get a landscape company to come through and prune it back really hard so that it fits in the space. So, it’s really important to look at the space that you have and determine, is it adequate for the trees that you really want to plant? 

What is the biggest misconception you hear the most about the process?  

I think the biggest misconception would be just what a tree requires to be established. Oftentimes, for what we do at Select Trees, we’re harvesting trees so that means we’re taking them out of the ground and moving them to another place. And so, trees are not bulletproof. They need help, in that first year especially, to get established. 

Where on UGA’s campus can students and faculty enjoy the trees Select Trees has planted?  

One of the places on campus that stands out is the Reed Hall alley behind the stadium. At the intramural fields just above the train tracks, there’s a really nice row of Hightower Willow Oaks. At the women’s sports complex, there are quite a few of our trees, and really just all over campus through the donation process. There have been different spots all over campus that have benefited from the donation. 

IM Fields Tree Progression

Intramural Fields Tree Progression

Do you have a favorite tree to plant? If so, what is it? 

My favorite tree — and it’s one that we’ve sent quite a few of to campus — is called Highbeam Overcup Oak. It’s a cultivar of Overcup that we introduced about 25 years ago, and it’s just a really great native tree that not only looks fantastic, but it has a lot of environmental benefits as well. 

Do Select Trees have anything planned for Arbor Day? 

It’s just another day unfortunately because propagation season kicks off really quick, so we’re getting all of our greenhouses and things like that set up to start new trees. 

 

UGA Class of 2021 sets new Senior Signature participation record

The University of Georgia Class of 2021 set a Senior Signature record with 3,009 students making a gift to the university prior to graduation. This is the fifth consecutive year that the graduating class broke the preceding class’s participation record and the highest donor count in the program’s 30-year history.

Students are asked to contribute to UGA through the Senior Signature program during their final year on campus. In appreciation for giving back to the university, students’ names are included on a plaque in Tate Plaza in the heart of campus.

“This record is a true sign of the senior class’s Bulldog tenacity,” said Kevin Nwogu, Student Alumni Council president-elect who also helped lead this year’s campaign. “They managed challenges presented by the pandemic alongside preparing for graduation—and still made room to give back to their soon-to-be alma mater.”

Senior Signature allows students to select any fund on campus to receive a portion of their gift—and students often select a program or department that enhanced their college experience. This year’s minimum donation was $30 in honor of Senior Signature’s 30th anniversary.

This year, the Student Alumni Council, which educates the student body on how philanthropy at UGA improves lives, launched a new component to Senior Signature in which donors to the program vote on a student organization to receive a grant from the Senior Signature endowed fund. The hope is that this new initiative will build a ‘philanthropic cycle’ in which students donate, direct and receive funds—building an understanding of the power of private support at universities like UGA.

Senior Signature was established in 1991. Since then, more than 40,000 students have donated to UGA through the program—their names still visible on the plaques in Tate Plaza.

Learn more about Senior Signature at alumni.uga.edu/seniorsignature.

Isakson gift caps $4.5 million fundraising effort for Parkinson’s research chair

The University of Georgia’s campaign to create the John H. “Johnny” Isakson Chair for Parkinson’s Research and Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) Eminent Scholar position reached its goal of $4.5 million in private commitments, and the final contributor was the former U.S. Senator for whom the chair is named.

“We are deeply honored that Senator Isakson (BBA ’66) has made this commitment to the university. His decades of service to our state and nation and his support of UGA and higher education inspired this entire effort,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “We also are very grateful for the generous gifts from additional individuals and organizations that are supporting this endowed position.”

The Isakson Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar position will help UGA attract a leading authority on brain disorders—with an emphasis on Parkinson’s, with which Isakson was diagnosed in 2015—to engage in teaching, research and public service. Fundraising for the chair attracted a variety of donors including individuals, businesses, foundations and more.

“I’m very proud to play a part in this effort,” said Isakson. “Of course, I’m honored that this position would carry my name, but more than anything, I am glad to see so many willing to give so much for this important cause. My deepest gratitude goes out to everyone who gave.”

A major supporter of the Isakson Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar position is the Georgia Research Alliance. GRA grows Georgia’s economy by expanding university research capacity and seeding and shaping startup companies around inventions and discoveries. UGA currently has 18 GRA Eminent Scholars on faculty, and a 19th is set to join the university in fall 2021.

The Isakson Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar will also be the director of UGA’s forthcoming Center for Brain Science and Neurological Disorders. Fundraising efforts are underway for the center, which will leverage UGA’s broad, comprehensive strengths to create an interdisciplinary program that will expand opportunities for collaborative and innovative solutions.

“I think the supporters of both the Isakson Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar and this new center understand the unique position UGA occupies and the potential for great work that comes with that,” said Kelly Kerner, vice president for development and alumni relations. “It’s very exciting, seeing these things come together and knowing that all the great work to come will honor a great man.”

Johnny Isakson

Isakson graduated from UGA in 1966 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in real estate. He met his future wife, Dianne, while both were UGA students, and they married in 1968. The year prior, he began working for Atlanta real estate firm Northside Realty, eventually serving as its president from 1979 to 1999.

His political career began in 1976, when he was elected to the first of seven terms in the Georgia House of Representatives. He was Republican minority leader in the Georgia House from 1983 to 1990. In 1993, he was elected to the Georgia State Senate, serving there until he was appointed chair of the state Board of Education by Gov. Zell Miller in 1996.

Isakson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1999 and served as a U.S. representative until he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. He was reelected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 and 2016. Among his duties in the U.S. Senate, he served as chair of the Committee on Veterans Affairs and chair of the Select Committee on Ethics.

After his 2015 diagnosis with Parkinson’s, Isakson continued to work in public service until his health compelled him to resign from the Senate on Dec. 31, 2019. In 2017, Isakson received the Fox Foundation’s Parkinson’s Advocacy Award for his work to improve the lives of people living with the disease and for his advocacy in funding new treatments.