Alumnus Creates Legacy of Success

At the February gift announcement event on the Emory campus (left to right): Carol Clower, Mildred Price Varner, and John T. Clower III 65B.

Campaign Emory

The estate of the late James E. Varner Jr. 43C has provided $15.4 million to Emory College of Arts and Sciences. The bulk of the gift—$14.4 million—will strengthen financial aid for deserving students through the Emory Advantage program. The gift doubles the amount raised for Emory Advantage, bringing the total to just over $28 million. The program’s funding goal is a $75 million endowment.

“Emory Advantage grows out of the core belief that we simply cannot succeed unless we retain the ability to recruit to Emory the sort of vibrant, talented, diverse, exciting student body that enhances the Emory experience for everyone and strengthens every aspect of the institution,” said Robin Forman, dean of Emory College.

“This requires that we remain a destination university for all students we would like to see join us, independent of their financial means. This gift is, in every way, a significant investment in the future of these students, the college, and the University.”

Emory Advantage was established in 2007 to ensure access to an Emory education for undergraduates from families with total annual incomes of $100,000 or less.

“The Varner bequest to Emory College is exactly the right gift at the right time. There’s no greater challenge facing the college today than keeping Emory accessible and affordable,” said Emory University Trustee Wendell Reilly 80C.

Since its inception, 1,297 students have benefited from the program. In the 2010–2011 academic year, Emory Advantage provided more than $6.3 million in financial aid awards to students across the University. Of that amount, about $4.2 million supported students in Emory College.

An Atlanta banker with a career that spanned nearly four decades, Varner believed that his Emory education helped him to achieve financial success and that his gift to the college would help others excel.

“It is a pleasant obligation to continue to contribute to Emory and make it a little easier for students who come behind me,” he commented during a 2007 interview for the Emory University Alumni Directory.

Varner was acutely aware that the future lies in the education of each succeeding generation, said his stepson, John T. Clower III 65B.

“With his knowledge of economics and finance, Jim knew that an education today is much more expensive than in the past and that one of the major structural problems with America’s society and the economy is the disparity between the education level young Americans are obtaining and the level required for the new jobs being created,” Clower said.

Varner’s wife, Mildred Price Varner, and those friends who knew him best remember him as thrifty but generous in supporting causes that were important to him. He was a faithful annual contributor to Emory, even during his final years.

“He saw many changes and much growth at Emory through the years—different presidents, deans, professors, and others. . . . Through it all he was a strong believer in education and a loyal supporter of Emory University,” she said.

(For more information about Emory Advantage or to support the program, please visit

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