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UNG finalizes merger of foundations

University of North Georgia President Bonita Jacobs, center, stands with leaders of the newly merged UNG Foundation Inc. -- Rich White, left, and Mary Helen McGruder, right.

As of July 1, the University of North Georgia (UNG) will achieve another important milestone in the consolidation process when its two philanthropic foundations merge as the University of North Georgia Foundation Inc. with combined assets of $52 million and a mission focused on fundraising.

UNG was formed in January 2013 through the consolidation of North Georgia College & State University and Gainesville State College, two of the top-performing schools in the University System of Georgia. UNG is the first of the University System of Georgia institutions that were consolidated in January 2013 to combine its philanthropic foundations.

The final votes to form the new foundation were taken in May by trustees of both previous organizations, following a year-long process guided by the Foundation Consolidation Steering Committee. The committee, made up of five trustees from each foundation, met monthly to draft a mission and strategic initiatives, new bylaws and a transition plan. Trustees from both foundations were given the opportunity to provide feedback, then voted on finalized policies written by the committee.

"Each foundation comprises impressive individuals who are committed to the success of our students and the future of the university, and I am grateful to them for their hard work during the past year to create a new, merged foundation," UNG President Bonita Jacobs said. "The sense of unity they have created will provide strong support for the new foundation."

Dr. Andrew Leavitt, CEO of the UNG Foundation Inc. and UNG's vice president for university advancement, said having one foundation allows for greater efficiency and effectiveness in meeting its fundraising mission.

"The future is very bright for this foundation and what we'll be able to accomplish through our mission that is now solely focused on raising money to support the students, faculty and staff of the University of North Georgia," Leavitt said. "I want to thank our trustees, alumni and donors for their support during this time of transition."

In its first year, the new foundation will be chaired by Rich White, a Gainesville businessman and alumnus of the former Gainesville State College. Mary Helen McGruder of Cumming, Georgia, an alumna of the former North Georgia College & State University, will serve as vice chairman of the foundation. Both White and McGruder also served on the UNG Consolidation Implementation Committee, which led the institution-wide consolidation process in 2012.

"It has been a great experience working with the members of the two prior foundation boards to very thoughtfully develop the framework and operating structures for our new, united board. We are all extremely proud that our new structure and operating procedures were approved unanimously by members of both prior boards," White said. "We also want to thank President Jacobs for her support and for allowing us to formulate the most efficient plan to best meet the needs of the students and the institution."

White, who is a past chairman of the UNG Foundation – Gainesville, Inc. and the Gainesville Junior College Foundation, has led a number of community organizations, including the North Georgia Community Foundation, the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, and the Georgia Mountain Food Bank.

McGruder is a past vice chairman of the UNG Foundation – Dahlonega, Inc. and is founding president of the Forsyth County United Way and the Sawnee Woman’s Club.  She also has led the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, the Forsyth County Library Board of Trustees, and the Sawnee Mountain Foundation.

"As we have worked together over the past year to consolidate UNG’s foundations, we have developed a mutual level of trust and respect that will serve the university well for years to come," McGruder said. "The financial strength of our foundations and the level of expertise and dedication exhibited by our trustees will allow us to provide scholarship and institutional support to maintain a quality educational experience for all of our students." 

Seven members of the committee will serve as officers in the foundation's first, transitional year; 15 additional trustees from the previous foundations and three to be added in June will constitute the foundation in its inaugural year. (Click here for a list of transition leadership and trustees.)

The UNG Foundation Board of Trustees will consist of a maximum of 30 elected, voting trustees chosen from alumni, community leaders and regional business leaders, with the university president and the immediate past chairman to serve as ex-officio, voting trustees. An additional five ex-officio, non-voting trustees representing the university and alumni will serve support and advisory roles.

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