The University of Georgia Alumni Association has launched a new giving society, The 1961 Club, to better engage the university’s more than 14,000 living African-American alumni. Named for the year of desegregation at UGA, The 1961 Club supports the Black Alumni Scholarship Fund, which provides need-based scholarships to African-American students.
This new fundraising initiative, which is being spearheaded by the Alumni Association’s Black Alumni Affinity Group, was officially launched on Jan. 9 during a networking event for alumni and students at Paschal’s Restaurant in Atlanta.
“When the dedicated volunteers who serve on the Black Alumni Leadership Council approached us with the idea for The 1961 Club, we were excited,” said Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of the UGA Alumni Association. “One of the priorities of the Commit to Georgia Campaign is to remove barriers to education so that UGA can attract the best and brightest students, and The 1961 Club is making strides toward that goal. We are grateful for the efforts of these volunteers to make an impact in such a meaningful way.”
On Jan. 9, 1961, Hamilton E. Holmes and Charlayne Hunter-Gault became the first African-American students to register for classes at UGA amid a crowd of National Guardsmen, reporters and community members on both sides of the integration debate. They were later joined by Mary Frances Early, the first African-American student to graduate from UGA. Early will receive the President’s Medal Jan. 22 during UGA’s annual Founders Week celebrations.
In 1981, James Simmons Jr. and Horatio Lanier established the Black Alumni Scholarship Fund with the support of numerous alumni and faculty. The endowment now provides renewable scholarships to five deserving undergraduate students who demonstrate promising leadership qualities and a commitment to advancing racial equality.