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What do you really know about bats?

Duh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh BAT … WEEK! Not what you were expecting? Neither was I until the Odum School of Ecology launched their Bulldogs for Bats campaign. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about bats that has completely reshaped my opinion. Much like the beloved DC Comics superhero who saves Gotham, bats are saving local ecosystems in the night and are often misunderstood. From Australia to right here in Athens, Georgia, bats serve as natural pest control and are essential pollinators of many plants.

So what’s Bat Week, you ask? It’s an international, annual celebration designed to raise awareness about the need for bat conservation. And it starts today! Did you know bats face risk of disease, habitat loss, pesticide use and wind energy, just to name a few? Diminishing numbers of bats pose a threat not only to the functioning of healthy ecosystems, but also to human well-being. Insect-eating bats, including the 16 species found in Georgia, save the U.S. agricultural industry at least $3 billion a year in pest control costs and crop damage. Bats also help control mosquito populations and may reduce the risk of emerging diseases, such as West Nile Virus, in the Southeast. This week, we’re spreading awareness about the vital role bats play, and how you can help save them.

Bulldogs for Bats is a campaign that’s been running the entire month of October to raise support for bat conservation efforts. All funds donated will provide local bats with a safe, sustainable environment while enhancing student learning and research opportunities. While many of our graduate students have conducted fieldwork research abroad, building bat houses in the community will provide students more chances for experiential learning and hands-on research right in our backyard.

So when you see some of these so-called “spooky” creatures on Halloween, think of the difference they’re making in our environment. And please consider saving the bats—what better time than during Bat Week?

$1.5 million gift to Odum School of Ecology honors legacy of ecology student John Spencer

Article written by Beth Gavrilles (MFA ’89)

John Spencer, a master’s student in ecology at the University of Georgia, was passionate about freshwater ecology, conservation and ecological restoration. A graduate fellowship established through a $1.5 million commitment from John’s mother and stepfather, Kathelen (JD ’82) and Dan Amos (BBA ’73), is ensuring that his legacy will reach far into the future.

“Kathelen and Dan Amos are two of the most generous and devoted alumni of the University,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Their establishment of the John K. Spencer Fellowship is a meaningful tribute to John that will help advance the important work he intended to carry out.”

John Spencer arrived at UGA in the fall of 2014 and immediately distinguished himself at the Odum School of Ecology for his hard work, ready laugh, enthusiasm and, most of all, his thoughtfulness. He cared deeply about people and the natural world. His untimely death in 2016 left his family, friends and colleagues devastated.

“John’s memory is with us every day—his smile, his optimism and passion for life,” said John L. Gittleman, dean of the Odum School and UGA Foundation Professor in Ecology. “John wanted us all to enjoy and conserve the natural world around us. This gracious and kind gift will ensure that future generations will have the chance to fulfill John’s passion.”

John’s research focused on the health of urban streams.

“John wanted to study—and positively affect—how stream ecosystems respond to stressors associated with watershed land-use change, particularly urbanization,” said professor Amy Rosemond, who co-advised John with assistant professor Seth Wenger.

John studied the effects of elevated conductivity—the amount of dissolved ions, or pollutants, in water—on invertebrate communities in urban streams as a way to measure stream health. In December 2016, the University of Georgia awarded him a posthumous master’s degree in recognition of the work he had completed toward the requirements of his degree.

The John K. Spencer Fellowship was established that year with an initial gift from John’s family and contributions from more than 370 friends, classmates and colleagues. The two-year fellowship provides a research assistantship to students in the master’s in ecology or conservation ecology and sustainable development degree programs who are interested in pursuing careers in management and conservation of aquatic ecosystems.

To date, three students have received Spencer Fellowships, and their work is already having an impact. Inaugural Spencer Fellow Emily Johnson built upon the foundation of John’s research to identify particular disturbances impacting water quality in Athens-area streams and create a real-time monitoring system that makes it easy for municipal water managers to respond to issues quickly.

Zach Butler is studying the impacts of an invasive species, the nine-banded armadillo, on the ecosystems and native wildlife of the Georgia barrier islands. Zach’s research has upturned the conventional wisdom about this species, finding that they are helping to fill part of the ecological role of the gopher tortoise, a native species in decline across the Southeast. His findings are now informing coastal ecological management plans.

Talia Levine is studying contaminant levels in fish found in the Turtle Brunswick River Estuary near a Superfund site on the Georgia coast. She is measuring PCB and mercury concentrations in whole fish because, while fish consumption guidelines for the area exist, they are based on filleted samples only, and there is evidence suggesting community residents use more of the fish than just the fillets. Talia is sharing what she learns with government agencies and nonprofit organizations in the Brunswick area to support them as they work to ensure safe consumption of seafood resources by community residents.

“The John K. Spencer Graduate Fellowship honors John by providing our outstanding graduate students the opportunity to pursue careers in aquatic conservation and management and make a positive difference, as John intended to do,” said Gittleman. “This gift ensures the continuation of John’s legacy, for which we are immensely grateful.”

Alumni turn their appreciation for the coast into an opportunity for a student

This story was written by Kelly Simmons and was originally posted to Outreach.uga.edu on July 8, 2019. 

You can see the salt marsh from nearly every room in Dorothea and Wink Smith’s Hilton Head home.

The activity varies with the tide. When the water is high, boats cruise through a channel that connects residents and businesses to the intercoastal waterway and the ocean. At low tide, you can walk out to the edge of the marsh where there might be wading birds, like herons, egrets and wood storks. Geckos perch on the wooden rail of the deck.

Their fascination with the marsh, its occupants and importance to the coastal ecosystem is what drew the Smiths from their home in Ohio to the South Carolina shore once they retired.

And it was that fascination that drew the Smiths to UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant on Skidaway Island, in neighboring Savannah.

“We live on the marsh, we walk on the beach,” Wink Smith (BBA ’72) says. “It fit right in.”

Since then, the Smiths committed money from the Patrick Family Foundation (Dorothea Smith’s family’s foundation) in Decatur, Georgia, to fund a summer internship at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant on Skidaway Island for a UGA student interested in marine sciences. Their gift will endow one internship a year.

“We have an emphasis on education and community and being a part of anything that helps the environment,” Dorothea Smith (AB ’72) says of the foundation.

UGA offers summer internships in public education programming, communications, phytoplankton monitoring, marine careers, aquarium science, facilities operations and shellfish research at the Skidaway Marine Education Center and Aquarium.

“We went over there and were very impressed,” Dorothea Smith says. “We are facing ecological changes, and they’re on top of it.”

“The connection between us living here on the marsh and seeing what they’re doing with education made this scholarship opportunity push all the buttons we were looking for.”

Students supported by the Patrick Family Foundation Fund for the Smith Family Marine Summer Internship will have an opportunity to engage in a broad range of activities at the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant facilities on Skidaway Island.

They can help care for the animals on display at the UGA Aquarium, learning to use scientific instruments commonly used in marine science research. They will have the opportunity to research specific behavioral and physical characteristics of several marine species, as well as their habitats and diet. They can shadow marine science researchers in the field and lab, learn about shellfish research, including oyster production at the UGA Hatchery, and perhaps apply their knowledge of marine science concepts in the design and execution of a research project.

“Summer interns in this role will gain a deep understanding of Georgia’s coastal habitats and the functions of coastal ecosystems,” said Mark Risse (BSAE ’87, MS ’89, PHD ’94), director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “The Smiths recognize that this experience is fundamental to a student interested in becoming a marine scientist or education.”

Dorothea Patrick Smith, from Decatur, Georgia, and Wink Smith, from East Liverpool, Ohio, met as students at UGA. They honeymooned on Hilton Head and made a home for their three girls in Ohio, where Wink Smith worked in the ceramics industry.

They bought their house in Hilton Head five years ago and spend 9-10 months of the year there. They plan to sell their Ohio home and relocate there permanently.

Between living on the marsh and the early morning walks on the beach, they have found ways to get involved in local conservation efforts. During a recent morning walk, Wink Smith found an unmarked turtle nest on the beach and contacted the person on Hilton Head responsible for tracking the turtles during nesting season.

“With education and communication we’re all becoming better stewards of the beach, the ocean and the marsh,” Dorothea Smith says.

Another successful fundraising year pushes UGA beyond campaign goals

Fundraising efforts for the University of Georgia continue to exceed expectations, with donors contributing $224 million in new gifts and pledges in fiscal year 2019.

This year’s giving drove the Commit to Georgia Campaign beyond two major goals: raising $1.2 billion and creating 400 Georgia Commitment Scholarships by the campaign’s conclusion on June 30, 2020. It also is the third consecutive year that fundraising has exceeded $200 million.

“I want to offer my thanks and appreciation to each and every donor in the UGA family for helping us achieve these important goals that have advanced the university,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Because of their incredible generosity, we are now reaching exciting, unprecedented heights across our missions of teaching, research and service.”

One of the most significant benchmarks for continued growth is the five-year rolling fundraising average, which averages the prior five years of giving at the end of each fiscal year. That number has risen every year of the campaign, and in FY19, it reached $204 million. Five years ago, that average was just under $115 million.

 

A chart displaying the last six years' five-year rolling averages.

“Year after year, the alumni and friends of the University of Georgia prove how exceptional they are,” said Kelly Kerner, vice president for development and alumni relations. “With their support, we reached our campaign goal 16 months ahead of schedule. The contributions that got us to that point are already helping students, creating new educational opportunities and enhancing research and scholarship.”

Because of private giving, UGA has made considerable progress in the Commit to Georgia Campaign’s three priorities: increasing scholarship support, enhancing the learning environment, and solving grand challenges through research and service.

In 2016, the university announced its intention to create at least 400 Georgia Commitment Scholarships—endowed scholarships for students with unmet financial need—by the end of the campaign. Currently, 451 scholarships have been established, with 191 created in FY19. The more than 300 contributors to the Georgia Commitment Scholarship program have given nearly $30 million in total, which has been matched dollar-for-dollar by the UGA Foundation.

In addition, this year saw the completion of several significant facilities projects funded, in part, by donors, including M. Douglas Ivester Hall and Sanford and Barbara Orkin Hall in the Business Learning Community, the West End Zone project in Sanford Stadium, the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, the UGA Entrepreneurship Program’s Studio 225 on West Broad Street, and the Charles Schwab Financial Planning Center.

Private giving also created 17 new endowed faculty positions in FY19. These positions strengthen UGA’s ability to recruit and retain the brightest, most innovative educators and researchers. Since the start of the Commit to Georgia Campaign, UGA has added 87 endowed faculty positions.

The giving that has enabled all of these achievements has come from faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of UGA, both near and far. In some cases, very near: 3,615 dedicated current and former UGA employees gave a total of $9.4 million in FY19. Current and former employee giving has accounted for $53.3 million over the course of the campaign.

Over 71,000 donors contributed to UGA in FY19, of which 39,658 were alumni. Thus far, more than 158,000 donors have given to the campaign, which was announced to the public in November 2016.

Why give to UGA?

At the University of Georgia, giving is a treasured tradition. Since 2014, donors have given over $18 million each year through regular annual giving.

Greater financial support from alumni affects national recognition and college rankings. By giving to your alma mater, you’re investing in the value of your degree.

Be part of the legacy. Each year, more than 50,000 alumni and friends give to increase access for students, enhance the learning environment and fund world-changing research and service. No matter the amount, every gift matters.

Give by June 30 to ensure you are a 2019 donor. Donors will receive a 2019 UGA Donor window decal and a subscription to Georgia Magazine.

Endowment honors UGA Press Advisory Council member Peggy Heard Galis (AB ’68)

Peggy Heard Galis

The Peggy Heard Galis History Ph.D. Apprenticeship will allow history Ph.D. candidates to gain insight into and experience in the scholarly publishing process.

The University of Georgia Press created an endowment to fund a publishing apprenticeship program for students from UGA’s graduate history program. The Peggy Heard Galis History Ph.D. Apprenticeship will allow history Ph.D. candidates to gain insight into and experience in the scholarly publishing process.

A giving campaign organized by the UGA Press funded the endowment. UGA Press Advisory Council member Charley Tarver made the lead gift and served as the fundraising chairperson, while Lucy Allen served as the fundraising co-chair and helped connect local and out-of-state contributors with the endowment. Because of Tarver and Allen’s efforts, the campaign received nationwide donations now totaling over $100,000.

The endowment honors Galis for her many years of service to the press, the history department, and UGA. A resident of Athens, Galis and her husband Denny Galis are both graduates of UGA. She is a founding member and current vice chair of the UGA Press Advisory Council. She has long been actively involved in community, cultural and educational organizations, including the Clarke County School District, the Georgia Museum of Art, the Athens Clarke Heritage Foundation, the Southern Historical Association and the Southern Foodways Alliance.

“Peggy Galis is a human super-connector. We are thrilled to announce this teaching and learning program that honors her intellectual curiosity, her love of history and books, embodied in her deep commitment to UGA students and the UGA Press,” said UGA Press Director Lisa Bayer.

The Peggy Heard Galis apprentices will be Ph.D. students in the UGA history department. The apprentices will receive an in-depth introduction to university-press publishing and participate in the process by which scholarly books are acquired, peer reviewed, developed, edited and approved for publication. In addition, they will learn how to communicate professionally with various parties in the industry, juggle multiple tasks at once and manage a project’s status long-term.

“Peggy Galis is the history graduate program’s secret weapon. She fundraises, hosts and promotes events, and asks astute questions of every speaker who darkens our door. Peggy is a PR department, development office, and Ph.D. dissertation committee rolled into one,” said Cindy Hahamovitch, B. Phinizy Spalding Distinguished Professor of History at UGA. “How perfect is it that an apprenticeship designed to teach history graduate students how publishing works will be named in Peggy’s honor?”

Apprenticeships like these enhance the UGA learning environment, a primary goal of the Commit to Georgia Campaign. With over $1.2 billion raised, the campaign has already transformed UGA by way of new scholarships, learning opportunities, facilities and more. To find out how to help build on the campaign’s success in its final year, visit give.uga.edu.

Thank-You-Giving-Week-2019

3,500+ donors participate in UGA’s inaugural Giving Week

More than 3,500 members of the UGA community, including alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students and friends, came together the week of April 20 to raise over $1.4 million in support of the university’s goals of removing barriers to education, enhancing the learning environment and solving grand challenges.

“We called all Dawgs – and they answered. We are exceptionally grateful for the Bulldog family’s display of generosity and pride during Giving Week,” said Kelly Kerner, vice president for development and alumni relations. “The gifts made in just one week will have an incredible impact in the form of scholarships, new programs, study abroad opportunities, research funds and so much more.”

Bulldogs from 45 states and six different countries made gifts in support of many areas of the university, including all 17 schools, Athletics, Academic Affairs, the Botanical Gardens, Libraries, Research and an array of student organizations. Most donors gave to the Georgia Fund, UGA’s unrestricted fund that supports the university’s most pressing needs, which fully supported student scholarships this year. Schools’ unrestricted funds are used at each dean’s discretion. Gifts to the College of Veterinary Medicine might be used for provisions as basic as peanut butter – it’s used by the gallon during animal rehabilitation and often in short supply.

“Giving Week is all about alumni participation and the power of collective giving,” said Kerner. “We had gifts ranging in size from $5 to $175,000, and each one is important and fuels UGA’s success and mission.”

The success of Giving Week was bolstered by the efforts of the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors and many alumni volunteers, such as chapter and leadership councils, who reminded their peers that every Dawg counts. Prominent alumni, including Coach Kirby Smart, Malcolm Mitchell, and Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum challenged the Georgia family to show the world just how loud Dawgs can bark.

Not only does alumni giving participation create a diverse base of current and future support, but it has an effect on UGA’s reputation. Alumni participation is one of the seven factors considered in U.S. News & World Report’s Best College Rankings. With participation rates down across the country, Georgia Giving Week was a dedicated time to reinvigorate and inspire our alumni donors.

“It was encouraging to see so many alumni around the globe come together to give back to our alma mater,” said Bonney Shuman, UGA Alumni Association president. “As alumni, we share a sense of duty and dedication for future generations of Bulldogs. I couldn’t be more proud of what we did in support of current and future students during Giving Week!”

Fundraising corresponds to the fiscal year, which ends on June 30. If alumni and friends missed Georgia Giving Week, they can still be counted as donors and make a difference this year with their gifts.

To learn more about giving to the University of Georgia, visit give.uga.edu.

Class of 2019 sets Senior Signature record

For the third year in a row, UGA’s graduating class has set a Senior Signature giving record.

Senior-Signature-Record-2540-Donors

2,540 graduating seniors collectively donated $127,000 to the university through this fundraising campaign spearheaded by the UGA Student Alumni Association. Each student donor’s name has been engraved on a plaque in Tate Plaza in honor of their commitment to UGA.

“I gave to the Senior Signature campaign because of those who have come before me and given, as well as for those who will come after me,” said Nash Davis, a member of the Class of 2019 and president of the Student Alumni Association. “Giving to UGA provides opportunities that I myself will never have the opportunity to gain anything from and I think that’s what makes giving so important.”

Senior Signature was established in 1991 with just several hundred donors in its first year. Since that time, over 35,000 students have donated more than $1.5 million to UGA through the program. Each year, graduating seniors are asked to “make their mark” on UGA by donating $50. Of that gift, $20 is directed to the Georga Fund and the other portion can be designated to a specific school, college, department, program, or scholarship that the donor wishes to support.

Join us in congratulating (and THANKING) the Class of 2019 for this record-breaking effort. RING THE BELL!

ABC’s Deborah Roberts pledges $100K to UGA

Deborah Roberts

ABC’s Deborah Roberts pledges $100K to UGA for scholarship

Award-winning correspondent and University of Georgia alumna Deborah Roberts has committed $100,000, matched by the UGA Foundation, to establish a need-based scholarship through the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program.

“We are thrilled that such a distinguished alumna has committed to supporting need-based aid at UGA,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Her generosity is an example of the tremendous alumni support that continues to move our university into the future. Deborah’s gift will open the door to higher education for students today, tomorrow and in perpetuity.”

Roberts has risen through the ranks of television news, received numerous awards and been a regular reporter and contributor for programs such as “Dateline NBC,” “20/20,” “Nightline” and “Good Morning America” to name a few.

“I feel honored, privileged and, indeed, blessed to be able to offer a student who’s dreaming of success the opportunity to make those dreams come true,” said Roberts. “Growing up in small-town Georgia, I know the value of education and embrace this opportunity to change lives and futures.”

Roberts’ scholarship will provide aid to graduates of Perry High School, which she attended, as well as other high schools in middle Georgia.

Through the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program, the UGA Foundation matches—dollar for dollar—any gift in the amount of $50,000, $75,000 or $100,000 to establish an endowed, need-based scholarship for undergraduate students. The scholarship is awarded within a year of the donor making their gift, and from that point forward, the endowment grows—increasing the size of the scholarship award over time and helping student after student earn a UGA degree.

Since the matching program’s creation in 2017, over $54 million has been dedicated to new need-based scholarships, with over 265 donors giving to the program. Scholarship recipients also benefit from academic support in the form of tutoring, workshops, academic coaching and more.

Born in Perry, Georgia, Roberts began her post-UGA career at WTVM-TV in Columbus, Georgia, and her connection to the university has remained through her many positions since then. In 1993, she received the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication’s John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award, presented annually to high-achieving young alumni.

In 2006, Roberts delivered UGA’s Holmes-Hunter lecture, and in 2016 she presented an Alumni Seminar. Earlier this year, she participated in a panel discussion entitled “Grady Greats: A Conversation on the Enduring Values and Power of Journalism.” She will deliver UGA’s spring undergraduate Commencement address on May 10.

As a major component of the Commit to Georgia Campaign’s effort to remove barriers for students, the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program has been a critical element of UGA’s fundraising success over the past two years. To find out how you can contribute to that success, visit give.uga.edu/georgia-commitment.

400+ Georgia Commitment Scholarships serve state

Georgia Commitment Scholarships top goal more than a year early

The Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program has reached its initial goal—creating more than 400 need-based scholarships—13 months ahead of schedule. Through this program, donors are helping to support University of Georgia students with the greatest financial need, one of the top priorities of the university’s Commit to Georgia Campaign.

“I am deeply grateful to all of the donors who have made this program a success,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “Increasing scholarship support for students has a positive ripple effect on our state and the world. UGA alumni go on to become leaders in all sectors—from business and education to technology and health care—and it all starts with access to a UGA education.”

The GCS Program was announced by Morehead in January 2017. Through the program, the UGA Foundation matches—dollar for dollar—any gift in the amount of $50,000, $75,000 or $100,000 to establish an endowed, need-based scholarship for undergraduate students—creating new, permanent pathways to higher education.

Over 270 donors, including individuals, families, corporations and private foundations, have taken advantage of this opportunity to date. Among them are award-winning correspondent and UGA alumna Deborah Roberts; Georgia business leaders Arthur Blank, Tom Cousins and Pete Correll; UGA Foundation trustees; UGA faculty and staff; and UGA alumni groups.

More than $3 million in match money is still available to create additional scholarships. *As of 5/10/19, this is closer to $2.5 million

“I’m excited that we’ve reached our goal, but I’m more excited to see how many more people will get involved,” said Bill Douglas, chair of the UGA Foundation Board of Trustees. “UGA’s alumni and friends have proven themselves extremely generous through this program, and I have no doubt that they will continue to support students through Georgia Commitment Scholarships until every last matching dollar is spoken for.”

Georgia Commitment Scholarships are awarded by the Office of Student Financial Aid. From that point forward, the endowment grows perpetually, increasing the size of the scholarship award over time and helping generations of students earn UGA degrees.

Many of those students are already benefiting from the GCS Program: over 240 scholarship recipients were on campus in the past year.

“If it weren’t for the kindness and generosity of the donors to my Georgia Commitment Scholarship, I wouldn’t be at UGA,” said one GCS student from Moultrie, Georgia. “This scholarship also has allowed me to grow in my major and get more involved at UGA.”

Providing a well-rounded college experience is a key component of the GCS Program. As a partner in the program, the Division of Academic Enhancement offers tutoring, workshops, academic coaching and other support to help GCS students transition to college life, achieve academic success while on campus and plan for life after graduation.

As a major component of the Commit to Georgia Campaign’s effort to remove barriers for students, the GCS Program is a critical element of UGA’s fundraising success over the past two years.