Written by Johnathan McGinty
As a pair of University of Georgia graduates and passionate Bulldog fans, Olivia (BA ’91) and Woody Waters (BBA ’90, MBA ’92) were already proud members of Bulldog Nation.
However, thanks to their engagement with the Parents Leadership Council (PLC), they have been able to deepen their existing ties to the university.
With three children who are also Bulldogs (Ellie, ’20, Woody, IV, ’23 and Gill, ’25—all Terry College of Business majors), Olivia and Woody found a supportive, engaging community through PLC which opened their eyes to countless opportunities to give back.
PLC provides parents with an avenue to support the university through their time, talents and resources, while also exposing them to the full scope of opportunities available to students.
It has proven invaluable for out-of-state parents who are looking to build lasting connections with the broader university community.
As alumni, Woody and Olivia already had many of those relationships in place, but where PLC has served them best is by expanding their knowledge base of the types of educational programs, support services and vital resources available to UGA students.
“We have learned so much about the student organizations, academic clubs, other services and just how much Georgia offers the student body,” Olivia said. “It blew us away. Learning more about all that Georgia offers its students was so impactful and is one of the main reasons we give back.”
Through the PLC, Olivia and Woody have explored various programs and funds that help students, identifying three funds to support financially, including the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program, which supports more than 680 endowed need-based scholarships and has eased the financial burden for many students.
“It’s common sense that there are kids across the state who can get into Georgia but can’t necessarily afford to go,” Woody said. “The need-based scholarship was the first thing we learned about during our time with PLC, and it’s the first place where we started to give back.”
The PLC also introduced Olivia and Woody to educational offerings like the Terry College of Business’s Entrepreneurship Certificate Program, which is open to all majors and prepares future entrepreneurs for the business world, as well as a relatively new resource for students on campus, the Sunshine Fund.
Established in 2020 by fellow PLC members Christie and Scott Krase of Chappaqua, New York, the Sunshine Fund provides financial assistance to students navigating difficult circumstances affecting their mental health and well-being. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of students seeking help for mental health and well-being has increased. The Sunshine Fund ensures that finances are never a barrier to students receiving the resources and services they need.
As someone who works in the healthcare industry, Woody knew the importance of offering programs and resources to support students dealing with these issues and gravitated toward supporting this fund. He and Olivia credited Dr. Carrie Smith, Director of UGA’s Student Care and Outreach, for being able to showcase the magnitude of need for those types of services on campus.
“There has been a long-running movement to make sure mental health is viewed equally with medical care when it comes to healthcare coverage,” Woody said. “It became obvious during COVID that mental and emotional well-being, or the lack thereof, was much more prevalent than I may have realized.”
Adhering to the belief that to whom much is given, much is expected, Olivia and Woody have long contributed to various charitable causes and supported their alma mater. Their children have all benefited from the HOPE Scholarship, which provides financial support for tuition at Georgia. As such, they’ve been able to redirect the money saved on their family’s education back into various programs and funds at the university like the ones they now support.
And the PLC proved to be the genesis of their ongoing giving efforts.
“There are so many ways to give back to the University of Georgia—the sports teams, the investments in the campus—but for Woody and me, being able to give where it can impact the student body is our number one priority,” Olivia said. “Being members of PLC, that’s what brought all of those opportunities to light for us.”
Learn more about the Parents Leadership Council.