Skip to Content
  • Mark Biernath
  • Allens Schollars
  • Giles
  • Tony Holcombe's Love of History Leads to Planned Gift for Scholarships
  • Returning the Favor: Scholarship Gift Gives Back to Georgia State
  • Bill and Rita Loventhal: A Leap of Faith That Paid Off

Leaving His Mark on GSU

103-Year-Old Student's Bequest Influences GSU Art and Design Initiatives

Ernest Welch

Barely two years since 103-year-old photography student Ernest G. Welch passed away, his multimillion dollar bequest is developing new art and design perspectives for Georgia State University faculty and students.

The academic and artistic legacy of Ernest was celebrated on Feb. 8 in a program of speeches and studio demonstrations called Ernest Day. The bequest from Ernest, who died in late 2009, left approximately $4 million to GSU.

GSU President Mark P. Becker and College of Arts and Sciences Dean William J. Long kicked off a program dedicated to highlighting the ongoing legacy of the lifelong learner whose philanthropy led to the naming of the Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design.

In attendance were Welch's cousins-Mary Emma Welch McConaughey (Ph.D., 1998), Merrilyn Welch Eastham and Clara Welch Howell, who are all from the Atlanta area.

Letting His Passion Be His Legacy
"Congratulations to all the students who benefit now from Ernest Welch's generosity," Becker told a crowd gathered at the Florence Kopleff Recital Hall. "You are carrying forward the legacy of a student who pursued his passion, and let his passion be his legacy."

That legacy includes the inaugural Welch Symposium, highlighted by a juried art exhibition scheduled for late summer and a conference in December expected to draw professional scholars as well as undergraduate and graduate scholars well beyond the fields of art and design.

Drawing from disciplines at GSU as varied as anthropology, modern languages and gerontology, the symposium will explore the subject of death and the ways humans assign meaning to it. Classes across disciplines are currently devoted to this subject and are expected to produce papers, works of art and other scholarly and creative responses to the subject of death.

"Mr. Welch was a lifelong learner who valued curiosity and appreciated the various viewpoints that each scholar and artist brought to an issue," says GSU Assistant Art Professor John R. Decker, who is organizing the Welch Symposium. "Ernest believed in the power of community. The interdisciplinary nature of this symposium seeks to bring together the larger scholarly and artistic community of GSU to explore one of life's great mysteries."

The Welch funds will also support the school's first Welch Artist-in-Residence. Ayanah Moor of Carnegie Mellon University will assume that role in spring 2013.

More funding impact can be seen in the work of Welch Graduate Fellows Marc Errol in ceramics and Kojo Griffin in drawing, painting and printmaking. Welch Faculty Research Grant recipients include Nancy Floyd in photography and Craig Drennen in drawing, painting and printmaking.

"It was a tremendous act of generosity, confidence and faith that he created opportunities for people he had not even met yet," says Drennen, who never met Welch. "I hope to do Ernest proud."

Welch's life and gift were further memorialized by a bronze plaque with his likeness that will hang in the school's office. The plaque, funded by art student clubs, was made by GSU sculpture alumnus Matthew Sigmon (M.F.A., 2009).

"On behalf of all the students at the Welch school, I present this as a small token of our thanks and respect for all the creative passion and generosity that Ernest represents to all of us," says Rachel Chamberlain, president of the Art Student Union.

Taking Digital Photography Courses at the Age 96
The speakers and artists at Ernest Day revived Welch's memory as a fastidious, dedicated learner who graduated from GSU at age 93 with a bachelor of fine arts degree in photography. In 2002, at age 96, he studied digital photography at GSU.

All four former Welch School directors were in attendance, including John McWilliams (1996-2002) and Larry Walker (1983-1994).

Current Welch School director Cheryl Goldsleger recalled Welch from her oil-painting class, where students pair up to construct stretchers to build canvases from 2 x 2 pieces of wood.

"He enjoyed and enriched himself here, and his contributions to our community showed how very much he cared for the students and wanted what was going on to continue," she says.

Former director Ralph Gilbert added: "He gave us the gift of opportunity and left us with a responsibility to fulfill that opportunity and make something great of the school.

"It's a heavy responsibility, and I hope to just suggest that Ernest is a person worth every bit of effort to fulfill his vision and convert every bit of his dream to excellence. I think we've made a great start, and have many more years to perfect it."

By GSU Foundation Writer Michelle Hiskey, (404) 413-3486.

How You Can Help
To learn how you can make GSU a part of your personal legacy with a simple gift made from your will or other estate plans, click here.


eBrochure Request Form

Please provide the following information to view the brochure.

can't see me

A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Georgia State University a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I give to Georgia State University, a nonprofit corporation currently located at P.O. Box 3965 Atlanta, GA 30302-3965, or its successor thereto, ______________* [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to the Foundation or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to the Foundation as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to the Foundation as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and the Foundation where you agree to make a gift to the Foundation and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

Personal Estate Planning Kit Request Form

Please provide the following information to view the materials for planning your estate.