UGA writing center receives major gift

Park Hall at UGA

This story, written by Katie Cowart, was originally posted on April 26 on the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences website.

The University of Georgia Writing Center is being renamed for Jill and Marvin Willis III.

Housed under the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences in Park Hall, the Writing Center is now known as the Jill and Marvin Willis Center for Writing in recognition of their $1 million gift.

“From the moment I met Jill, I sensed her generosity of spirit and her sincere interest in the work we do to support writers,” said Rebecca Hallman Martini, associate professor and director of the writing center. “I am thrilled not only to receive this gift, but also to have Jill as a friend of the Center, who I hope will continue to be active in our conversations about how to create a space that fosters a culture of writing on UGA’s campus.”

The Center for Writing offers support to students, faculty, and staff on a wide variety of writing projects. The services are offered free of charge and open to all of the UGA community. Consultants are academically trained through a 3 credit-hour course on writing center theory and practice, and support on a range of writing. The writing consultants help visitors evaluate different aspects of their writing, teach them to review their own writing, and visit classes to present workshops on specific aspects of writing.

With this gift, the Center for Writing will be able to offer more writer-focused events, support the staff in professional development activities, and participate more meaningfully in campus-wide resource fairs, in addition to piloting new programs to support writers from under-represented backgrounds. A long-term goal with this gift would include expanding the center’s space.

“The impact of this gift is significant, both in the short term and the long term. Not only does this give us the chance to really re-envision what we can do to support writers, but it also calls attention to the important work we are doing in exciting ways,” said Martini. “Jill Willis has taken the time and care to really understand the work we do to support writers. Her willingness to associate her name with the Center carries a level of respect we deeply need and deserve. This gift gives us good reason to continue advocating for resources and for writers across the university.”

Jill and Marvin Willis III lived on opposite ends of the same street in Decatur, Georgia, for two years while in elementary school. Friends reintroduced them after they graduated from college—Jill with a B.A.-English from UGA and Marvin with a B.B.A.-Accounting from GSU—and they married in 1991. They have two children. Their oldest, Julia, who earned a B.A.-Psychology from UGA and a PhD-Industrial Organizational Psychology from Auburn, works at Deloitte. Their son, Marvin IV, is a U.S. Marine Corps sergeant and business major in his junior year at UGA.

Jill held writer and editor positions at a newspaper, magazine publisher, and telecommunications corporation before launching a public relations agency that she led for 16 years. She now writes Christian teen fiction. Marvin is a partner with Smith + Howard, a tax, accounting, and advisory firm headquartered in Atlanta. They live on Lake Lanier and enjoy boating.

“Marvin and I are thrilled to contribute to UGA’s Center for Writing,” said Jill Willis. “We believe that students who graduate with strong writing skills will excel in their chosen careers. We look forward to the culmination of Franklin College’s bright vision to offer resources that will impact all UGA students.”

Anyone wishing to use the services offered by the Center for Writing can schedule an appointment virtually or at any of the several locations offered across campus.