Cora Nunnally Miller anonymously gave more than $33 million to the University of Georgia Foundation throughout her lifetime and granted permission for the university to share her name only after her death. Her last gift, a bequest of $17 million made at her passing in July 2015, will have a transformational effect across the university.
The Hugh Hodgson School of Music is the major beneficiary of Miller’s bequest and will receive $9 million, the largest gift ever made to the Hugh Hodgson School of Music. Miller, who was a passionate advocate for the arts, was the stepdaughter of Hugh Hodgson, a nationally recognized musician and educator who was the first chair of UGA’s music department and one of the most significant supporters of music and art in the South in the early 20th century.
Miller's contributions to the School of Music were numerous and significant during her lifetime, and the majority of her support went directly to students through scholarships, assistantships and student experiences. Wesley Sumpter, a senior from Lithia Springs, Georgia, received one of these scholarships and said, “As an aspiring musician growing up, I wasn't as fortunate as many other students who took private lessons. We simply couldn't afford it. Being a recipient of this scholarship means that someone believed in me, my talents, and my efforts. Now I get to go to one of the best schools out there.” Sumpter also has been able to travel to Europe and around the U.S. to perform and compete at several music festivals thanks to his scholarship.
Sumpter is not the only student whose life Miller changed. Deborah Stephens, a music student from Hoschton studying vocal performance, said, “I get to do what I love most,” and credited her scholarship with allowing her to “focus on being the best musician and the best student that I can be.” Miller remained fiercely anonymous during her lifetime. She received hundreds of thank you notes addressed to “an anonymous donor,” and although she never met the students whose lives she impacted, she cherished their letters.
“Cora Miller’s gifts have been transformative in countless students’ lives,” said Dale Monson, director of the School of Music. “These students come here with a desire to share their love for music, and she has made that possible. This new gift will nurture the dreams of generations to come.”