Anonymous No More: The Mystery Donor Behind a Lifetime of Campus Giving

For decades, University of Georgia (UGA) students enjoyed scholarships, assistantships, and student experiences that were made possible by the generosity of one Cora Nunnally Miller. There was just one catch: they—nor anyone else, for that matter—knew the support was made possible by one Cora Nunnally Miller.

Miller anonymously gave more than $33 million to the University of Georgia Foundation throughout her lifetime and granted permission for the university to share her name only after her death. She passed away in July 2015 and we're now learning the details of a bequest of $17 million that will benefit here beloved Hugh Hodgson School of Music as well as other university organizations.

Before we take a closer look at the mechanics of the bequest, let's first try to get a better idea of the once-anonymous Miller, shall we?

Miller's father, Winship Nunnally, Sr., was a well known Atlanta businessman who served on a number of boards of directors of local Atlanta companies, including the Coca-Cola Company, Trust Company of Georgia (now SunTrust Bank), and Delta Airlines, Inc.

She was a passionate advocate for the arts, and the stepdaughter of Hugh Hodgson, a nationally recognized musician and educator who was the first chair of UGA's music department and one of the most significant supporters of music and art in the South in the early 20th century. And so her gift to the school stands at $9 million, the largest gift ever made to the Hugh Hodgson School of Music.

Another passion was animals. Miller learned how to ride horses at a young age and later in life raised Afghans and Whippets. She was a founding member and a lifetime director of the Whippet Health Foundation as well as serving as President of the American Whippet Club. She supported the Massachusetts Audubon Society, as well as many other charities. In fact, in April the AKC Canine Health Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to prevent, treat, and cure diseases in all dogs, announced a one million dollar donation from Miller's estate to its endowment fund. 

Which brings us back to her support of UGA institutions. During her life Miller was the primary funder of the college's new Veterinary Medical Center and gave over $7 million to this state-of-the-art teaching hospital for small and large animals. Her bequest of $2 million to the college established an endowment to support teaching, research and service at the college.

The final component of Miller's final gift will support the UGA Honors Program and the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, with $4 million being used to establish the Cora Nunnally Miller Fine Arts Scholarship Fund for undergraduate students studying the fine arts.

In related news, the Herb Alpert Foundation, co-founded with his wife, singer Lani Hall, recently announced a $10.1 million donation to Los Angeles City College (LACC) that will provide all music majors at the school with a tuition-free education. Check out our analysis here.