A monumental gift to UK and our Commonwealth A monumental gift to UK and our Commonwealth
There are moments — moments in the life of an institution like ours that shape who we are and what we will be for generations to come.
Today is one of those moments — a truly special day in the nearly 160-year life of our university.
I am both humbled and gratified to inform our campus community that today — on what would have been Carol Martin “Bill” Gatton’s 91st birthday — we are announcing that the Bill Gatton Foundation has bestowed a $100 million gift to the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment (CAFE) at the University of Kentucky.
Not only is this the largest gift in the history of the university, but we also believe it is the largest gift ever bestowed upon a college of agriculture in the United States. In fact, Mr. Gatton’s total giving to our institution now stands at $180 million over a lifetime of generosity and commitment to his alma mater.
Bill Gatton gave back to UK because he believed deeply in this place and its transformative power through education to change lives and communities.
That spirit of giving was nurtured early on a family farm in western Kentucky, in the small town of Bremen in Muhlenberg County.
From there to UK, and out into the larger world, Mr. Gatton was a wildly successful entrepreneur and businessman. His success and interests took him many places, but his heart never left Kentucky. And his single greatest philanthropic interest was this place, Kentucky’s university.
From the Gatton College of Business and Economics to the Gatton Student Center, the impact of his generous spirit spans our campus — both in the buildings that bear his name and in the lives of the many students who benefit from scholarships.
This gift will ensure ongoing investments in academic and research programs at the college, scholarships for students and critical infrastructure to support all the work that occurs in CAFE.
Mr. Gatton had a favorite poem, “The Bridge Builder,” by Will Allen Dromgoole. He recited it often as it so vividly and compellingly captured the inspiration for the many life-changing gifts he made to our campus community.
I encourage you to watch this video to learn why he wanted to “be a bridge” between his generation and the ones to follow.
Today, we are so pleased that another bridge is being built, one that so many of us — particularly our students and scholars — will have the privilege over generations to cross as they find their paths to education, discovery and lives of meaning and purpose.
It is with the strong support of our faculty leadership and in recognition of this gift that I will recommend to our Board of Trustees in June that this college be renamed the Edith Martin and Harry W. Gatton, Sr. College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
This gift to the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment — a college very dear to Bill Gatton’s heart and so instrumental to our mission as a land-grant institution — is a gift to UK.
It is a gift to Kentucky.
It is a testament to the work we do, together, to advance our Commonwealth.
This is a moment for us.
With Mr. Gatton’s legacy of giving and love for our community and state as our inspiration, I know we will be committed to making the most of it.