Record gift to UGA Engineering endows scholarships

Walton EMC Engineering Leadership Scholarship recipients Alex Breazu, Rafael Martinez and Galilea Garcia meet with Walton EMC President Ronnie Lee at the UGA College of Engineering's Engineering Scholarship Luncheon on Oct. 20.

Walton Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) has made a $1.3 million gift to the University of Georgia College of Engineering to endow the utility’s scholarship program, the largest one-time donation in the college’s history.

“Walton EMC has been a great partner of our college for many years, and their support has a significant impact on our students—particularly the company’s scholarships,” said Donald Leo, dean of the College of Engineering. “With this latest gift, the college will be able to fully endow the Walton EMC Engineering Leadership Scholarship so these awards will be available to deserving students for generations to come.”

Established in 2017, the Walton EMC Engineering Leadership Scholarship provides five renewable annual awards of $10,000 to outstanding students enrolled in the College of Engineering as well as high school students who’ve been accepted into UGA as intended engineering majors.

“Our customer-owners deserve reliable electric service and reasonable rates—it takes good engineering to make both of those things possible,” said Ronnie Lee, CEO of Walton EMC. “Our endowment and scholarship will not only help us continue to serve our customer-owners by having good engineering talent available, it also helps many deserving young people to simply make the world a better place by solving challenges through engineering.”

Lee, a 1969 graduate of UGA with a degree in agricultural engineering, noted Walton EMC hired one of the first graduates of the newly-established UGA College of Engineering and the college is “in our backyard”—both points of pride for the company.

Walton EMC is one of the largest of almost 1,000 electric cooperatives in the country. The company supplies energy to 133,000 residential, business and industrial accounts in 10 northeast Georgia counties.

For Galilea Garcia, a first-generation college student, the Walton EMC Scholarship has been a game-changer.

“My scholarship has provided me with some sense of financial freedom because I don’t have to take time away from my studies or extracurricular activities to work a job to pay for my studies,” said Garcia. “I am continually able to invest in myself, whether it’s having extra time to study, go to office hours, or attend an extra lecture series or professional development workshop. This has allowed me to continue to grow as a student leader and put me on the right path to develop as a professional in the future.”

A student in the Double Dawgs program, Garcia will graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering and a master’s degree in business administration.

“For most scholarship recipients, it’s really not just about the money,” she said. “The generosity of donors like Walton EMC lets us know that there are people out there that support us and our aspirations. It’s very encouraging to know that someone is willing to invest in our futures.”

The scholarship is available to students who maintain permanent residency in the Walton EMC service area, which includes Athens-Clarke, Barrow, DeKalb, Greene, Gwinnett, Morgan, Newton, Oconee, Rockdale and Walton counties. More information on the scholarship can be found on the College of Engineering’s undergraduate scholarship webpage.