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BB&T, Fowler make history with unique endowment

By Faith Peppers
University of Georgia

For decades, Georgia's rural counties have searched for partners to help solve social, economic and academic issues at home. Jasper County found help in an area philanthropist and a community bank.

Robert Fowler is committed to exploring the potential of young people in his area. He wanted to open doors for them to better education, leadership and citizenship opportunities. So he partnered with BB&T, one of the nation's largest community banking companies, to donate $1.2 million to the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Together, they helped establish the Robert and Jean Fowler 4-H Agent Endowment, the first endowed UGA Cooperative Extension county agent in Georgia.

"Rob Fowler's vision for Georgia is courageous," said J. Scott Angle, CAES dean and director. "Our collective future is brighter because of his commitment to Georgia's children."

The endowment will fund a UGA Extension 4-H agent to work with youths in Jasper County and the surrounding area. Georgia 4-H is the youth development outreach program of UGA Extension, serving more than 185,000 Georgia youths in grades 5-12.

"This is a unique opportunity to help UGA Extension better serve the future leaders of this community," said Beverly Sparks, CAES associate dean for extension. "We know this is the first endowed agent position in Georgia. And it may well be a first in the nation."

UGA Extension leaders expect this position to enhance efforts to get youths involved in 4-H activities. Youths in 4-H take leadership and citizenship trainings. They learn research and presentation skills, character development, wellness and life skills.

"Our 4-H program is among the largest in the nation," Sparks said. "With the type of community commitment Mr. Fowler has shown, we hope others will follow his lead and help us serve even more Georgia children at this crucial time in their lives, when they are learning skills and forming attitudes that will serve them well in life as they become vital contributors to our state and society."

"We join Mr. Fowler in creating this fund to continue our long history of community support and, ultimately, to help communities in our service area provide positive programs and experiences for youths," said Lars Anderson, BB&T's Georgia state president.

"This innovative public-private funding partnership for a county 4-H agent," he said, "supports education and economic development in targeted communities to enhance quality of life."

(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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