UGA icon celebrates milestone birthday in a special way

Charlayne Hunter-Gault with UGA students

This story was originally published on UGA Today on Feb. 24, 2022

University of Georgia groundbreaker and alumna Charlayne Hunter-Gault will celebrate a milestone birthday this Sunday, February 27, 2022. In honor of her 80th and in tribute to her dear friend, the late Valerie Boyd, Charlayne Hunter-Gault announced that she would be making a contribution to support the Giving Voice to the Voiceless Fund. To celebrate Hunter-Gault, UGA President Jere W. Morehead committed up to $25,000 of private discretionary funds to match, dollar-for-dollar, gifts made to this fund.

“As Charlayne celebrates this milestone birthday, we invite the UGA community to join the celebration by making a contribution to this program that is near and dear to her heart,” Morehead said.

The Giving Voice to the Voiceless program was created by Hunter-Gault and her husband Ron Gault in 2018. The program was led by Boyd, the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence and director of UGA’s Master of Fine Arts in Narrative Nonfiction program, before her death on Feb. 12.

The program provides grants to UGA students from all disciplines to help them pursue innovative projects that give voice to individuals, stories and topics that advance social justice, global understanding and the human good.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault speaks to a class about the Giving Voice to the Voiceless program

Several unique programs have been supported by this fund, including an international group of writers that share stories about youth engagement, human rights and sustainability; the UGA Black Alumni Oral History Project; and a podcast that tells the story of Preston Cobb and his unjust execution in 1961.

“Ron and I are passionate about supporting students who are giving voice to the people in their stories who have no other voice,” Hunter-Gault said. “I appreciate President Morehead’s continued financial support of this important initiative and his recognition of my dear friend Valerie in this special way that will keep alive her great contribution to GVV. I was always inspired by the work Valerie did in her professional career as a writer, a journalist and a professor when she helped create the Giving Voice to the Voiceless program. Like the Zora Neale Hurston Valerie so eloquently details in ‘Wrapped in Rainbows,’ Valerie, too, was and remains wrapped in rainbows, shining her loving light wherever it’s needed to help make this world a better place.”

A crowd-funding campaign is underway to raise the remaining funds to fulfill the match provided by Morehead and create $50,000 in new funding to the Giving Voice to the Voiceless program. The campaign will run through March 15, and alumni and friends are invited to contribute.