UWG President Dr. Brendan Kelly speaks to gala crows

Building a university town

March 27, 2023
Reading time: 2 minutes, 28 seconds

The University of West Georgia’s impact does not end at its campus’ borders. Rather, its influence extends far beyond western Georgia, touching the lives of countless alumni, industries and communities.

Dr. Brendan B. Kelly
Dr. Brendan B. Kelly

It’s that “live impact” that was celebrated – and advanced – Saturday night during the 2023 Presidential Black Tie Gala, during which more than 350 members of the UWG community raised more than $220,000 (a new record) to support outcomes for students.

The sold-out event, which also had record attendance, is the university’s largest fundraising event of the year. UWG President Dr. Brendan Kelly shared keynote remarks centered around the concept of “building a university town.”

“University towns are where the future is made, and building them takes time, effort, energy and – most importantly – people who are willing to advocate for their institution of choice,” Kelly said. “At events like our Presidential Black Tie Gala, we have the opportunity to gather with some of our university’s most significant supporters and both celebrate what we have achieved together and build what is to come.”

Auctioneers point to the crowd at the UWG Presidential Gala

The event’s proceeds will be utilized to support outcomes for students by funding need-based scholarships, growing academic programs, advancing professional learning opportunities and positioning the university as a whole to continue evolving in its sophistication.

Kelly was joined in the program by masters of ceremonies – Dr. Meredith Brunen, vice president for university advancement and CEO of the university’s foundations, and Dr. Russell Crutchfield, chief of staff – and Willie Candler ’19 and Cade Parian ’00, who served as the event’s auctioneers.

“Hosted in partnership with the UWG Foundation, this is our largest fundraising event of the year, and we are thrilled to have the largest-ever attendance with us tonight,” Brunen said. “This evening is all about how we can best position students for careers that enhance their lives and the quality of life in our communities. We could not achieve excellence in service to students without the critical role our supporters provide.”

While attendees enjoyed dinner designed by Chef Jacqueline Fenton-Miller and catered by Dine West, they also delighted in a performance from current UWG student, Camille Brown, on the electric violin.


During his remarks, Kelly featured several current students and initiatives in place at the university, imploring attendees to continue being advocates for the institution. 

“A key priority to curate a first-choice university is to enliven the concept of placemaking throughout our entire university landscape, and advocacy is a vital part of that,” Kelly said. “We all become better when we make optimism a choice and focus on what is possible, rather than what is present. The advocates we have at the University of West Georgia build our university town brick by brick, emblem by emblem, experience by experience.”

Following the presidential address and live auction, guests danced the night away outside the Campus Center to the musical stylings of Platinum Band Atlanta. UWG will host next year’s Presidential Black Tie Gala on Saturday, March 23, 2024. To become a sponsor of next year’s event, please email development@westga.edu.

A sold-out crowd at the 2023 UWG Presidential Gala

photography by Miranda Daniel and Julia Mothersole