More than 67,320 alumni, supporters, and friends of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, rallied in philanthropic support during the 2022-23 fiscal year, surpassing last year’s number of donors and raising more than $264 million in contributions.
This record number of donors to the state’s flagship land-grant institution comes at a time when the university has had a banner year in enrollment and retention, research expenditures and awards, state support, student success and alumni engagement.
“The sheer number of people who have given to the university demonstrates the support we have across the state and beyond,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman. “It shows how excited our alumni and supporters are for the historic success we’re seeing. There’s never been a better time to be a Volunteer.”
Support for Student Scholarships
Over the last 228 years, UT has continued to expand what it means to truly serve all Tennesseans. Support for student scholarships and accessibility continued to be a priority this year.
Students benefiting from scholarships report lower levels of financial stress, allowing them to focus on their studies — and contributing to UT’s highest-ever retention rate.
A notable donation to support students came from alumnus Jeff Gerber and his wife, Marla Gerber, who surprised the School of Architecture’s Class of 2027 with a $5.2 million gift — the largest in the history of the College of Architecture and Design — to cover each student’s last-dollar tuition and fees.
Jordan Nance, a first-generation student from Memphis, thanked the Gerbers in a note: “Because of you, one of the first things I learned at UT was gratitude. I’m inspired by the success you’ve achieved in the business and hope that, with all I’m learning, I will achieve my dream of becoming an architect-developer.”
The Vols of Honor Scholarship Endowment, created in partnership with the Folds of Honor Foundation, provides scholarships to dependents and spouses of military members or first responders killed or disabled in the line of duty.
The first-of-its-kind Veterans Impact Program, which supports incoming student veterans, launched with generous support from the Pilot Foundation and the Boyd Foundation.
Because of the commitment of donors, the Tri-Star Scholarship Program continues to assist Tennesseans with a pathway to afford and attain a UT degree. This generosity also enables alumni chapters, councils and organizations to provide scholarships for current and future students.
“I am happy to pay it forward by supporting UT students because I know the generosity of others helped me get to where I am today,” said alumna Courtney Vick, donor and president of the Nashville UT Alumni Chapter. “The investment others made has inspired me to be there for my fellow Vols. When we all are able to give, it adds up to something much greater and inspires the next generation of leaders to pay it forward.”
Giving to All Areas of Campus
University faculty and staff also showed their generosity by giving to areas across campus during the Big Orange Family Campaign. UT continues to lead the SEC in faculty and staff giving.
Another milestone was reached during Big Orange Give — UT’s annual day of giving — which enjoyed its 10th anniversary in November with more than 10,500 gifts contributed by Volunteers around the world.
For the Alumni Board of Directors, this past fiscal year was an exciting one under the presidency of Gary Beard, who wrapped up his term successfully and passed the torch to NFL quarterback Joshua Dobbs. Under Beard’s leadership board members contributed $60,000 for Big Orange Give — an amount that ultimately exceeded $100,000 in contributions thanks to private matching. They also helped first-generation students succeed through scholarships and mentorship, and placed a premium on connecting with students and faculty.
“I was fortunate enough to observe the tremendous Volunteer spirit of students and alumni who gave their time and energy improving the lives of others this year,” said Beard. “This spirit of giving is a fantastic reflection of donors’ belief in Tennessee and its future.”
UT raises funds through the University of Tennessee Foundation, an independent nonprofit corporation that seeks to enrich the lives of UT students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends through alumni engagement, financial stewardship and private investments. The foundation is the preferred channel for all private contributions benefiting faculty and students at the University of Tennessee System.
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