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KNOXVILLE — Bearden Lions Club of Knoxville has given more than $500,000 to the University of Tennessee to help students who have visual impairments and other disabilities.

UT President J. Wade Gilley said the Bearden Lions Club Endowment at UT will provide undergraduate scholarships and financial aid primarily to students with serious eye and vision problems. It also will help students with other physical or learning disabilities, he said.

“We are greatly appreciative of this generous gift from the Bearden Lions Club,” Gilley said. “The students whom it will benefit must overcome tremendous physical challenges to attend UT. This endowment will help them also overcome any financial obstacles to their educational goals.”

The gift was announced Tuesday at a UT-Lions Club dinner at Knoxville’s Club Leconte.

Bearden Lions Club President Gary Schneider said the endowment also will support faculty who teach or conduct research related to blindness and visual impairment.

“I have been involved with the Bearden Lions Club for more than 20 years and in higher education for 40 years,” said Schneider, professor emeritus and former associate dean of UT’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. “I have seen the struggles of students with physical and visual impairments.

“It is very rewarding to see this endowment established. We are pleased that it will benefit students of UT.”

Jan Howard, UT director of disability services, said the university has 19 currently enrolled students with non-correctable visual impairments or blindness.

“This donation will allow these students to stay more competitive by utilizing cutting edge technology such as voice recognition software,” Howard said.

UT also will use the endowment to help pay for eyeglasses for patients of Interfaith Health Clinic, clients of Knox County Senior Citizens Information and Referral Service, and some Knox County School students.

Lions International was founded in 1917. The Bearden Lions Club has promoted sight conservation and aid to the blind in Knoxville since its charter in 1949.