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Giving Back – A Profound Way to Say Thank You
By Dean Caula Beyl, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Very few students who attend the university today have unlimited financial resources, and this is particularly true of the students enrolled in the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR). As I think about the diverse life stories I have heard from our students, I recall that many involve single-parent homes, out-of-state students with a passion for UT but limited income, and ones who are facing catastrophic circumstances, such as loss of parents, divorce, serious illness, or disasters like fires or flooding. While I do not always remember their names, I clearly remember their faces and how they reflected the tension, grief, fear, and even panic inside as they struggled to cope with these challenges and still continue to attend classes. For many of these students, their lives had come down to one, very clear goal of just hanging on long enough to earn their degree from the University of Tennessee. 

The primary thing that has helped so many students overcome these life challenges and successfully graduate has been the generosity of our donors in establishing and supporting the CASNR scholarship programs. CASNR alone provides $800,000 to $1,000,000 in scholarship aid to our students. The university also awards some scholarships and even departments provide some additional support. We are not the largest college on campus, so we are especially proud to be able to give so much assistance to our students. It is only possible because of the number of people who keep the college and the students alive in their hearts. 

During one week in the middle of November, the university celebrates the Big Orange Give and each college has a donation goal that it hopes to reach in support of its students and programs. Thanks to the wonderful generosity of donors who have a passion for helping, we met our initial goal by Tuesday. We then set an expanded goal of $30,000 to reach by Thursday. Not only did our donors meet that goal, with their enthusiastic support we concluded the campaign with a total of $34,672 given. Much of this support will go into our Student in Distress fund that helps students who have serious financial, health, or life circumstances that may prevent them from finishing their degrees. 

Many of our students begin a lifetime commitment to giving back with their senior gift. Students graduating this fall in 2016 traditionally donate $20.16 to the college. This gift may seem small, but it symbolizes a first step in an ongoing relationship that so many alumni have, to pay it forward by supporting the next generation of students. We hear donors talk about the sacrifices they made to be able to support themselves through college—living in a room in a greenhouse, eating peanut butter five times a week, working two jobs—and almost all say they could not have finished without a scholarship. We wish to thank all of our donors, small and large, for what they do. They may never know just how many lives they have touched and improved by their generosity, but the student recipients know and are enormously grateful…as am I!