Feb. 25, 2011
Student Aid Gets $14.4 Million Boost at Emory
A $14.4 million estate gift to Emory University from alumnus James E. Varner Jr. will provide financial aid to students through Emory Advantage, a program that allows qualified students accepted to Emory to attend without worrying about how they can afford it.
Varner, who graduated from Emory in 1943 with an economics degree, left the bulk of his estate to the Emory College of Arts and Sciences for student support.
“Emory Advantage grows out of the core belief that we simply cannot succeed unless we retain the ability to recruit to Emory the sort of vibrant, talented, diverse, exciting student body that enhances the Emory experience for everyone, and strengthens every aspect of the institution,” says Robin Forman, dean of Emory College. “This requires that we remain a destination university for all students that we would like to see join us, independent of their financial means. This gift is, in every way, a significant investment in the future of these students, the college and the university.”
The Emory Advantage financial aid program was established in 2007 to ensure access to an Emory education for qualified undergraduate students from families with total annual incomes of $100,000 or less. Through the program, need-based grants reduce the education debt burden for undergraduate students at Oxford College, Emory College of Arts and Sciences, the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and Goizueta Business School. Since its inception, nearly 1,300 students have benefited from the program.
Sustaining financial aid program
"The Varner bequest to Emory College is exactly the right gift at the right time. There’s no greater challenge facing the college today than keeping Emory accessible and affordable,” says Emory trustee and alumnus Wendell Reilly. “In the last three years alone, student support in Emory College has grown more than $30 million a year. While Emory remains committed to meeting the need of students and their families, the college has no way of sustaining that effort without the support of alumni and generous angels like James E. Varner Jr.”
During the 2010-2011 academic year, Emory Advantage provided more than $6.3 million in financial aid awards to students across the university. Of that amount, about $4.2 million supported students in Emory College of Arts and Sciences. Emory was recently listed by U.S. News & World Report as one of 63 schools of 1,700 surveyed that meet 100 percent of student financial need.
An Atlanta banker with a successful career that spanned nearly four decades, Varner believed that the education he received at Emory helped him to achieve financial success in his career and that his gift to the college would help others excel.
“It is a pleasant obligation to continue to contribute to Emory and make it a little easier for students who come behind me,” Varner said in a 2007 interview for the Emory Alumni Directory. He died March 6, 2010.
Varner was acutely aware that the future of this country and this world lies in the education of each succeeding generation, said his stepson, John T. Clower III, a 1965 graduate of Emory’s Goizueta Business School.
“With his knowledge of economics and finance, Jim knew that an education today is much more expensive than in the past, and that one of the major structural problems with America’s society and the economy is the disparity between the education level young Americans are obtaining and the level required for the new jobs being created,” Clower says.
Varner’s gift is part of Campaign Emory, a $1.6 billion fund-raising endeavor that combines private support and Emory’s people, places and programs to make a powerful contribution to the world.