LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second time this year, the University of Kentucky is getting another historic financial gift. This time, it’s going to the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. University leaders said the gift will be transformational for students.
“It is my deep honor and privilege to announce that the Bill Gatton Foundation has bestowed $100 million as a gift,” announced UK President Eli Capilouto. It’s the largest gift the university has received in its 160-year history.
Nancy Cox, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, said the reality of the donation is still sinking in.
“We’re so grateful. This is an unprecedented gift to a college of agriculture in this country,” she said.
Cox said there will be an extensive planning process to ensure the college remains accountable for every dollar spent. One of the things she does know is that the money will go toward helping students get to college.
“We have a big commitment at UK to help first-generation students, to help students that don’t have a sound financial status, with scholarships. We also recognize creating a diverse workforce for the future,” explained Cox.
Cox said the gift could help them do more with their extension campuses in other parts of the state.
Bill Gatton, for whom the foundation is named, grew up on a farm in Western Kentucky, making this funding a perfect gift. Gatton believed in the importance of making money and also believed in giving money to the right things. He wanted to build bridges to lead others to success.
Capilouto said it’s only fitting the gift be given on what would have been Gatton’s 91st birthday.
“Mr. Gatton is one of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever met and had the honor to be around. He had the keenest mind, but the heart was even bigger,” Capilouto shared.
Cox believes he’d be proud of the impact he continues to make. “I think Mr. Gatton would most appreciate the fact that we bring people forward to new levels of education and to new success but I think he’d also be very proud of the research record that we will be able to establish even better with his funding,” she said.
School officials say they’ll be renaming the college after Gatton’s parent, Edith Martin and Harry W. Gatton Sr., to honor the legacy that his family continues to have in Kentucky.