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Scholarship Gala celebrates $2.6 million; doubles previous event total

Scholarship Gala 2016
Amrey Harden, president of Oconee State Bank and honorary co-chair of the 2016 UNG Scholarship Gala (left), presents the check of $2,691,676.16 to UNG President Bonita C. Jacobs (center) and Mary Helen McGruder, chair of the UNG Foundation (right).

The University of North Georgia (UNG) raised more than $2.6 million this year for student scholarships, nearly doubling the previous mark at $1.35 million. The total was announced and celebrated at the university's fourth annual Scholarship Gala, held April 30 in Bogart, Georgia.

Scholarship support for students has been a focus for UNG President Bonita C. Jacobs since her inauguration, which was celebrated with the first Scholarship Gala.

"Thanks to the commitment of our alumni and community stakeholders over the past three years, we have increased scholarship funding from less than $500,000 to nearly 2.5 million annually — that's a 500 percent increase," Jacobs said. "We are so grateful for the support of you and our communities; charging a tuition that allows us to hire the faculty our students deserve is very important, but it is also important that we create adequate scholarship funding to help those students who are struggling with the cost of college."

Most UNG students receive some type of financial aid, from scholarships and grants to student loans, and the need for scholarships continues to rise.

"The University of North Georgia produces leaders in every sector of our society, and tonight we come together to ensure that our students have the best support possible to help them fulfill that role," said Mary Helen McGruder, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the UNG Foundation. "Our trustees demonstrate their own level of leadership with their dedication to our students and commitment to contributing to their successful experience by helping ease their financial burdens. We are determined to make sure our students have every opportunity to thrive at UNG and in their future endeavors."

Grace Magrino, president of the Student Government Association at UNG's Oconee Campus, thanked donors for their contributions and the impact on her university experience.

"I am so thankful to see another side of the university," Magrino said. "The first half of my college experience has been forever changed by a scholarship funded by donors. Scholarships enable students to take on many extracurricular roles that lead to well-rounded individuals. You are helping us become the leaders of tomorrow, and you are an integral part of our stories."

During the event, the 2016 Presidential Leadership Award was presented to retired Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, an alumnus who served nearly 38 years in the U.S. Army.

Terry earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing and management and commissioned as a U.S. Army Infantry officer upon his graduation in 1978. During his career he had eight operational deployments — including five that were combat operations — and he commanded troops in combat during three of those operations. He has commanded at multiple levels across the Army, including commanding general of The United State Army Central, commander of V Corps, commander of the International Security Assistance Force Join Command as well as commander of the 10th Mountain Division. His awards and decorations include, but are not limited to: the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with four oak leaf clusters, the Bronze Star Medal with oak leaf cluster and the Ranger Tab.

"I want to thank all you here tonight for your generosity in providing scholarships. I was a recipient of a three-year Army scholarship that certainly helped me along my path," Terry said. "There is no doubt that the University of North Georgia is a state and national treasure that has a long-standing record of producing leaders of character for America. I look forward to continuing to support UNG."

Previous winners of the Presidential Leadership Award are Mike Cottrell, Paul Stringer, George Coleman, Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt and Gen. (Ret.) Randy Mixon.

Other awards presented at the event included:

  • The Summit Award, which recognizes significant contributions to scholarships at UNG over an extended period of time. This award was presented to Jacquelyn Pennington and her family in honor of the late Brooks Pennington, Jr., and the family's commitment to scholarship giving at UNG. To date, their contributions total nearly $1 million.
  • The Champion Award, which recognizes a significant contribution to scholarships at UNG within the past two years. This award was presented posthumously to COL Lewis J. "Jack" Peevy, and was received by John Douglas. Peevy's estate generated more than $4 million upon its sale.
  • The Service Award, given to Melvin Davis, chairman of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners.

With more than 17,000 students on five campuses, UNG is one of the largest public universities in Georgia. As one of only six senior military colleges in the country, UNG holds unique designations as The Military College of Georgia and a state leadership institution. UNG offers more than 100 programs of study ranging from associate degrees to graduate programs.

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