Southern Receives $1.6 Million Corporate Gift from Chattanooga Business

Southern Adventist University recently received a $1.6 million gift from a Chattanooga-area business that wishes to remain anonymous. The funds will make a significant difference for students; $1 million of the contribution is designated for bolstering Southern’s endowment, which supports scholarships, and remaining monies are for improvements to the university’s library and campus green spaces.

This desire to grow this endowment is a critical component of Southern’s Vision 20/20 Strategic Plan. According to Tom Verrill, senior vice president for Financial Administration, $1 million generates $45,000 of interest annually for scholarships.

“This level of support makes a big difference in Southern’s capacity to provide assistance for students seeking a high-quality, Christian education,” Verrill said. “Anything we can do in this area of scholarships—and anything a business does through philanthropy—means our students are likely to spend time focusing more on academics and less on the money issues that can sometimes overshadow learning opportunities and the joy of college.”

While the magnitude of this gift is unique, investments by local businesses in the university are not uncommon. Along with Southern’s sizable economic impact on Hamilton County, nearly $200 million annually, Chattanooga leaders enjoy the availability and caliber both of recent graduates and current students.

One such case in point is the Southern Promise program, a work-study setup funded by partnerships with area businesses. Each Southern student involved spends 15 hours a week helping local nonprofits and receives money toward his or her tuition from the university, via corporate gifts to Southern, in return. This allows companies to invest in themselves—a healthy city is always good for the bottom line—and to be compassionate corporate stewards. Contributions to the Southern Promise program give freshmen and sophomores the opportunity to earn $10,000 a year while gaining practical skills related to career interests. More than 20 students are participating this year, further widening Southern’s downtown footprint.

“When I’m in Chattanooga I often hear from business leaders how much they appreciate our students,” said Gordon Bietz, president of Southern. “Whether executives met those students as interns with their company, saw them working at a local nonprofit, or partnered with them in a community service project, there is consensus that they are a credit to the university and the city. This gift certainly illustrates that Southern is making meaningful contributions to Chattanooga.” 

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