The University of Georgia will award the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Mary Virginia Terry, who for more than half a century has provided support that has helped UGA strengthen academic and research programs and build new athletic facilities.
Terry, of Jacksonville, Fla., will receive the degree at UGA's spring commencement exercises May 9 in Sanford Stadium.
Honorary degrees are the highest recognition UGA can bestow after the earned doctorate. They are awarded for "exemplary and broad contributions to society." Recipients must demonstrate a "sustained record of achievements of lasting significance."
Terry, who grew up in Quitman, is a graduate of Valdosta State College. Her late husband, C. Herman Terry, earned a business degree from UGA in 1939 and was a successful insurance executive in Jacksonville until his unexpected death in 1998. The couple began making financial contributions to UGA in 1954 and has provided continuous support since then.
"There are few whose record of support, service and commitment to the University of Georgia is more consistent and more generous than Mary Virginia Terry's," said UGA President Michael F. Adams. "Her assistance has enabled the university to make significant advances in educating students, solving problems and forging a better future for our citizens. We are enduringly indebted to her for her friendship and loyalty and she is a most worthy and deserving recipient of an honorary degree."
Many of the Terrys' gifts were to UGA's business college and were used to endow faculty chairs, fund scholarships and summer research support, and facility upgrades to the Executive Education Center in Atlanta. Their gifts have been instrumental in lifting the college into the top ranks of American business schools.
In 1991, the university named the business college the C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry College of Business.
Other gifts created a faculty chair in the College of Pharmacy; enlarged the university's general scholarship fund; supported research on asthma and respiratory illnesses, which were contributing factors in Herman Terry's death; and helped build Butts-Mehre Hall.
Mrs. Terry also has been a leading supporter of many educational, philanthropic and cultural causes in Jacksonville. She has served on the board of directors of Jacksonville University and the University of North Florida Foundation.
She was on the women's board of directors of the Wolfson Children's Hospital, and the boards of the Ronald McDonald House, the Salvation Army, the Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless, the Women's Guild of the Jacksonville Symphony, St. Vincent's Healthcare Foundation and the Mayo Clinic Florida Leadership Council.
She was a charter inductee of the Terry College Pinnacle Society and received the college's Dean's Distinguished Service Award. She has received the Blue Key Service Award from the UGA chapter of Blue Key National Honor Society and the Friend of UGA Award from the University of Georgia Alumni Association.
The undergraduate commencement will be at 9:30 a.m. in Sanford Stadium, or in Stegeman Coliseum in case of severe weather. U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah will be the featured speaker.