More than 200 people gathered on Nov. 6 for the University of North Georgia's (UNG) President's Circle Reception, an annual donor recognition event, which included an update on the university and its newly merged philanthropic foundation.
"Our future is bright. We're one of the few institutions in Georgia that's growing, and we are increasing our scholarship opportunities for students," UNG President Bonita Jacobs said. "I know that your support of UNG today inspires future generations to continue to support a legacy. We are and I am incredibly grateful."
Jacobs thanked the trustees of the UNG Foundation Inc. for their work and support of the university, noting that UNG is the only one of the four consolidated institutions in the University System of Georgia to combine its foundations.
"I think we've done very well and I'm so excited about the leadership within our foundation and the work that they've done," she said. "There is a strong focus on supporting students who are motivated to go to college regardless of their financial ability, and we are very passionate about that."
The foundation is led by two alumni of the university – Gainesville businessman Rich White, who chairs the foundation's Board of Trustees, and vice chairman Mary Helen McGruder of Cumming, Georgia.
"The foundation is extremely strong, with investable assets well over $50 million, so we're off to a great start," White told donors at the event. "The late Col. Lewis Jackson Peevy made a major contribution this year that consists mainly of commercial and personal real estate. That one contribution, once we liquidate those assets, will probably be in excess of $5 million."
Last year, UNG raised more than $1 million for student scholarships, a 56 percent increase over the previous year and the first time the university exceeded $1 million in a single year.
"We've worked very hard to raise money for scholarships, and I hope you are applauding yourselves, because you are the ones we have to thank," Jacobs said as donors applauded the fundraising total. "Your compassion, your understanding and your belief in giving back to the next generation is very commendable, and I thank each of you for what you have done."
Jacobs also detailed UNG's academic, co-curricular and athletic successes across programs and colleges, which includes granting 2,300 degrees each year. However, Jacobs also pointed out that 14 of the 30 counties in UNG's northeast Georgia service area have a college completion rate less than 20 percent.
"Our success is demonstrated through the lives we change and the communities we strengthen through education," Jacobs said. "We know that we have work to do with increasing the college completion rate. To increase the economic development for this region, we simply have to graduate more students and that is our goal. You, our donors and supporters, play a tremendous role in our success."
The Nov. 6 event also included the unveiling of updated panels on the UNG Donor Recognition Walls, located on the university's Gainesville and Dahlonega campuses. The duplicate walls pay tribute to donors with cumulative giving records of $10,000 and higher, as well as honorary lifetime members of the foundation and recipients of the UNG Presidential Leadership Award.
Both walls also outline various societies which donated at the following levels of giving: Silver, Gold, Charter, Knowledge, Scholars, Leaders, Benefactors, Heritage, and Founders. Additionally, top donors for the UNG theater program, Corps of Cadets, Nighthawks Athletic Club, and class giving are featured on the walls. The William Pierce Price and Hugh Mills Planned Giving Societies feature those who have included the university in their estate plans, and Loyalty Giving honors those who have given each year for the past 25 years.