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Scholarship Gala celebrates record $1.8 million in student scholarships

2019 UNG Scholarship Gala
UNG Foundation Chairman Jimmy Faulkner and UNG President Bonita C. Jacobs, along with students, celebrate $1.8 million in scholarship funds awarded to students who attended UNG in fiscal year 2018.

The seventh annual UNG Scholarship Gala held March 29 celebrated a record $1.8 million in scholarship funds awarded to students who attended UNG in fiscal year 2018.

UNG President Bonita C. Jacobs thanked donors for their generosity and highlighted the university's accomplishments, including record enrollment growth, expanded academic programs, numerous military awards as a senior military college, and being named a national top-producer of Fulbright students for two years.

"With a growing reputation for innovation and academic excellence, the University of North Georgia is building on its historic strengths of student success, military education, and leadership development to advance into new levels of prominence," Jacobs said. "With your support, we are equipping our graduates to serve at the cutting edge of solving complex problems to meet the needs of our region and our country."

Increasing scholarship funds has been one of Jacobs' top presidential priorities, and the first scholarship gala was held in 2013 as part of her inauguration. The formal event, held at the university's Convocation Center, included dinner, entertainment and the presentation of the Summit, Champion and Presidential Leadership awards.

Retired Army Col. James T. Palmer, a 1973 alumnus who will retire as UNG's Commandant of Cadets at the end of June, received the Summit Award. It recognizes an individual, family or organization for significant contributions to scholarships at UNG over an extended period, particularly when those contributions serve to change the expectation for scholarship giving at UNG.

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 Palmer has been instrumental in the growth of fundraising mechanisms for the Corps of Cadets. His 20-year stint with the Corps followed a 26-year active-duty career.

"This second tour has been the highlight of my career," Palmer said.

Georgia House of Representatives Speaker David Ralston, a UNG alumnus who was unable to attend due to it being the final days of the legislative session, earned the Presidential Leadership Award. The award recognizes an individual who has made a significant, positive impact on the life and advancement of the university. A Blue Ridge, Georgia, resident, Ralston has championed the development of UNG's standalone Blue Ridge Campus, which is scheduled to open in fall 2020, and has supported the university's efforts to enhance economic development in the region.

"I am humbled at receiving this award," Ralston said in a video shown at the gala. "It's an award I don't feel I deserve, but I proudly accept it as a token of what UNG has meant in my life."

Dr. Randy and Peggy Kirner, a 1967 alumnus and his wife who established the Randall and Peggy Kirner Scholarship in July 2017, received the Champion Award. It recognizes an individual or organization for significant contributions within the past two years that promote scholarship and giving to UNG.

Randy Kirner recalled his arrival on campus from Los Angeles in 1964 and the support he and his wife, who he married in 1966, received from so many who worked at UNG. Kirner served in the Army in Vietnam before working as an executive for 35 years at four companies, then served as a Nevada assemblyman. He said the kindness and assistance of UNG faculty and staff during his time on UNG's Dahlonega Campus inspired him to give back to UNG.

Musical performances and art displays from students allowed gala attendees to experience firsthand the talents of the students who benefit from their donations.

"Proceeds from the seventh annual Scholarship Gala will provide important momentum to the students who need it most as they learn and grow into the future leaders of north Georgia," said Jimmy Faulkner, chairman of the UNG Foundation. "The community's support of this event demonstrates a steadfast commitment to UNG's promising students and sends the strong message that we champion them and their education."

Jeff Tarnowski, vice president for advancement at UNG, shared a similar appreciation.

"This year's gala was one of our most exciting evenings to date," he said. "We honored distinguished and beloved members of our community, and we were thrilled to showcase UNG's talented students via art displays and musical performances throughout the evening this year."

From April 1-May 6, UNG is holding its annual RISE crowdfund to bring awareness to and raise funds for scholarships that help UNG students achieve their goals. The campaign highlights eight scholarships this year: Cottrell MBA Scholarship Fund, Eagle Fund, Oconeefest Scholarship, LeeAnn Noble Memorial Scholarship Fund, Women's Educational Scholarship, NGC Class of 1975 Scholarship, 1LT Weston Lee Memorial Scholarship Fund, and Music Scholarship Fund.

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