Emory College receives historic $14.4 million gift

A $14.4 million estate gift from Emory University alumnus James E. Varner Jr. will provide financial aid to deserving students through the Emory Advantage program. 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. The gift is the largest in Emory College’s history.

See YouTube videos from the public announcement below.

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.

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 said.

Varner’s wife, Mildred Price Varner, and those friends who knew him best remember Varner as thrifty in his personal life, but generous in supporting those causes that were important to him. Varner was a faithful annual contributor to Emory, even during his final years of debilitating illness. He died March 6, 2010.

“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 University 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.”

“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 than enhances the Emory experience for everyone, and strengthens every aspect of the institution,” says Robin Forman, dean of Emory College. “This gift is, in every way, a significant investment in the future of these students, the College, and the University.”

The Emory Advantage student financial aid program was established in 2007 to ensure access to an Emory education for undergraduate students from families with total annual incomes of $100,000 or less. Through this 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, 1,297 students have benefited from this program.

In 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.

[Pictured left to right at the gift announcement event on the Emory University campus Feb. 25, 2011: John T. Clower III 65B, Mildred Price Varner, Brittany Meagley 08C 11PH, and Carol Clower.]

Read news releaseSee Campaign Emory story

Related Media


Alumnus’ Estate Gift Supports Emory Students

At the major gift announcement event on the Emory campus (Feb. 25, 2011), Emory President James Wagner talks about the $14.4 million estate gift to Emory University from alumnus James E. Varner Jr. 43C that will provide financial aid to students through Emory Advantage.


Emory Advantage Program Encourages Dreams

Brittany Meagley 08C 11PH talks about the impact of Emory Advantage on her academic career at Emory College.


Sustaining the Emory Advantage Program

Emory trustee Wendell Reilly 80C talks about the timeliness of the $14.5 million gift by Jim Varner. “There’s no greater challenge facing the college today than keeping Emory accessible and affordable,” he says.


Varner Gift Marks Milestone in Achieving the College’s Campaign Goals

At the reception honoring the $14.4 million gift from James E. Varner Jr. 43C, Robin Forman, dean of Emory College, recognizes Mildred Price Varner and acknowledges the impact of the gift on students receiving financial aid and the College campaign goals. “This gift is, in every way, a significant investment in the future of these students, the college and the university,” says Dean Forman.

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