The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has made a $1 million grant to the University of Georgia to help students struggling with issues related to alcohol and drug abuse and sexual violence. The donation was made to the university’s Fontaine Center in Athens, which was established 17 years ago to help in the prevention, early intervention, and recovery of these issues.
In announcing the gift, Margaret Connelly, who serves as managing director of the foundation, pointed out that the Fontaine Center’s work has become an important part of the university’s mission.
“College students are faced with so many difficult decisions and stressors at a time when they are just beginning their lives and learning who they are,” she emphasized. “It’s reassuring to know that the Fontaine Center is there to help make sure they have the tools to work through any issues, enjoy their college experience and pursue their ambitions to the fullest.”
Substance abuse has been a major concern on college campuses, large and small, since at least the 1960s. Increasingly, there is also a concern that the misuse of alcohol and a number of drugs, including prescription medications, is widespread among teens in high school.
In December of 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta released a study showing that deaths from drug overdoses in young persons, aged 10 to 19, had increased 109 percent in a six-month period in 2021, as compared to the same period two years before. Deaths from illegally manufactured fentanyl pills increased 182 percent. In 2021, there were almost 108,000 deaths from drug overdoses in America, up 15 percent from just the year before.
Abuse of alcohol is, according to recent statistics, also starting at an earlier age. In 2020, more than 20 percent of eighth graders, 40 percent of tenth graders, and 53 percent of high school seniors reported alcohol use.
All new students who are 23 and under at UGA are required to complete an online alcohol education. The university, which has a current enrollment of just north of 30,000 at its main campus, also has a number of students who are trained by the Fontaine Center to help provide peer-based education about the misuse of alcohol and other substances by their fellow students. Additionally, according to the university, there are programs in fraternities and sororities, athletics, and housing to provide information and education about the dangers of substance abuse.
The Fontaine Center was founded in 2006 by a gift from Jack Fontaine, who dropped out of the University of Georgia in 1975 because of his misuse of drugs and alcohol. He praised the recent gift from the Blank Foundation.
“To see an organization with the stature of the Blank Family Foundation join in this important effort is extraordinary. We are exceptionally grateful.”
The original gift to establish the center was the result of the loss by Fontaine and his wife, Nancy, of their 16-year-old son in an automobile accident caused by a drunk driver. The center was started to help the university take a more pro-active approach to both substance abuse and violence among students. It provides 1,800 individual counseling sessions for students and is said to help thousands more through group programs. The center also has what it calls a Collegiate Recovery Community which provides support for students in recovery and a 24-hour support hotline.
UGA vice present for student affairs, Victor Wilson, expressed the university’s appreciation for the Blank contribution.
“By supporting the Fontaine Center, the funding will help students become healthier, happier, more successful, and better able to achieve their goals. This is a direct investment in strengthening our best student experience possible.”
By supporting the Fontaine Center, the funding will help students become healthier, happier, more successful, and better able to achieve their goals. This is a direct investment in strengthening our best student experience possible.
According to Steven Rose of the UGA center in recent years, the university has helped to promote alcohol-free tailgate parties at UGA football games.
It has also helped to promote social messaging programs and workshops to help students make informed decisions about substance use while at the school.
“Our programs,” Rose said, “also provide students with accurate and current information, including harm reduction strategies that are research-supported to reduce high risk alcohol and other substance use harms.”
Arthur Blank grew up in a family where health care was important. His father was a pharmacist, who pioneered in delivering pharmaceuticals at more affordable prices. When he died when Blank was 15, his mother stepped in and developed the business that was later folded into a larger health care provider. Blank, who received a degree in accounting from Babson College in Massachusetts, originally came to Georgia to run a regional drug store chain. He partnered with Bernie Marcus in 1978 to found The Home Depot.
- Bob Bahr
- Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
- University of Georgia
- Drug Abuse
- Sexual Violence
- Fontaine Center
- Margaret Connelly
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Jack Fontaine
- Collegiate Recovery Community
- Victor Wilson
- Steven Rose
- babson college
- Bernie Marcus
- The Home Depot