Author: Chris Starrs

Published

Gantt escorts Mary Virginia Terry at the 2013 Alumni Awards and Gala

Morgan Gantt is the face of the Business Learning Community campaign video that is currently being viewed by literally thousands of Terry alumni around the country, and the college could not have found a better spokesperson to tell its story as filtered through the lens of Gantt's own life.

Gantt (BBA '13), who earned his marketing degree in May, bears more than a passing resemblance to a young Tom Hanks—and, as those who have seen the campaign video can attest, he seems to have channeled the Oscar-winning actor's charisma and believability as well.

In the video, Gantt makes several references to the importance of family, and he makes a point of saying that the people he interacted with at Terry—fellow students, professors, and staff—constitute the only real family he's ever known. By the time he enrolled at UGA in 2009, Gantt had spent most of his life as a ward of the state, living in five different foster homes.

"I've never had a traditional nuclear family," says Gantt. "Each family I lived with served a specific purpose for a time in my life. But I never had that real family to go to. Whatever the situation was, when I needed a family…I had to find a family. Terry was more than just a school for me, more than just a class. I looked forward to walking up those steps every morning."

When he was accepted into the Terry College, Gantt immediately got involved with the Terry Ambassadors, a student group that promotes pride and diversity within the college. It was just one of several organizations Gantt contributed to during his time on campus, but serving as an ambassador clearly had the most impact on him.

"I'm a people person…I need people," he says. "I walked into the ambassadors office, met some amazing people there, and they opened up some big doors for me—doors that allowed me to meet a lot of people who essentially became my family. Those people knew me, they knew what was going on at home, and they knew my struggles. They cared about my health and my family situation. The ambassadors office helped me make important career and personal decisions. Those people are fantastic."

When the Terry development office began looking for someone to narrate the BLC campaign video, which is an essential component of the public phase of the $140 million campaign, Gantt—who had demonstrated a talent for leading alumni tours of Brooks Hall—seemed like the perfect fit.

How good a job does in Gantt do in the campaign video? When Aflac CEO and Building Terry campaign chair Dan Amos watched the video for the first time, he could scarcely wait for the lights to come up in the room before remarking, "The entire country should be lining up to hire this young man!"

Not surprisingly, Gantt entertained a number of job offers after graduation. His interest in real estate had led to an internship with Crown Acquisitions Inc. in New York City between his junior and senior years. During his final year at Terry, he drew up a short list of 10 firms that he would consider working for—and in April he accepted an offer from Principal Financial Group, an Iowa-based Fortune 500 company that is considered one of the largest 401k plan providers in the world. Gantt said the helping hand he received from Terry in his job quest was immeasurable.

"Terry is very hands-on with making sure students have ample opportunities to meet with employers," says Gantt, who now lives and works in Charlotte, N.C. "Being an ambassador, I had access to some amazing individuals—and I really worked those connections."

Gantt admits he was "very emotional" when he saw the final cut of the campaign video for the first time, and the entire experience moved him to make a very tangible contribution to the cause he champions in the video. After signing on with Principal Financial, he committed a portion of his company life insurance policy to the Terry College.

"I didn't get here on my own," says Gantt. "I had the will, but a lot of people gave me a platform to do what I was capable of doing. I'm by no means a superstar. I've learned a lot and I've failed a lot. I've still got a lot of growing to do.

"But at 23, I'm proud to say I've made Terry the beneficiary of my life insurance. I'm now part of the Heritage Society, which is pretty cool. I don't think people realize that even at this young age, you can still give back to Terry. It was a no-brainer for me, the right thing to do. Most people leave their life insurance to their family…and Terry is my family."