A Groundbreaking Gift — A Life-Changing Legacy

The Brandt-Fritz Dean of Students Chair — a very first — will help Tech students become their very best.

Up until now, there has been only one endowed Dean of Students Chair in the nation — and that was at a private institution, Cornell University.

Now, through the generosity of some Georgia Tech parents — Darlene and Eric Brandt and Julie and Lance Fritz —  the Georgia Institute of Technology will be the first public university to boast an endowed Dean of Students Chair.

The commitment was announced by Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson at the October 27 Georgia Tech Parents Board meeting. “We are making history here today,” he underscored.

In thanking the Brandts and Fritzes, Peterson noted that their gift is not only groundbreaking, but will be life-changing. “A little extra help for some of our students can make a world of difference,” he said. “We are delighted that these families have a vision to provide much-needed support for the most vulnerable members of our student body so that they, too, can thrive and become outstanding Georgia Tech graduates equipped to do great things.”

The chair, subject to Board of Regents consideration and approval, will always be dedicated to the incumbent dean of students.

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Here’s more from the Brandts and Fritzes about why they endowed the Dean of Students Chair and what they hope their gift will accomplish:

SUPPORT The quality of services provided is only as good as the resources you can put behind it — that’s one of the reasons it was important for us to make sure that there was a constant flow of meaningful funds for the dean of students to work with.

— Eric Brandt

OUTREACH We hope our gift will give the university the means to reach out to students who might not even know a lot of these resources exist — this can help take these programs that the university has worked so hard to put in place to the next level.

— Darlene Brandt

GUIDANCE At-risk students are going one of two ways — they’re either going to drop out or they’re going to be able to stay. We know how valuable a Georgia Tech education is, so if they can just get over that hump, it will make a difference for their entire lives.

— Julie Fritz

PURPOSE We are pleased that the Brandts stepped up and looked for others who could join them — what we ultimately hope is that other parents and alumni will be prompted to get engaged and give to the extent that they can.

— Lance Fritz

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The Total Graduate

The couples committed $1.25 million each to endow the Brandt-Fritz Dean of Students Chair, which will generate an income of $100,000 a year to be used at the discretion of current Dean of Students John Stein and his successor, in perpetuity.

Before joining together to make this endowment, the main thing the four had in common was having sent their children thousands of miles away to a university whose rigor is a wellspring of pride, but also a fountainhead of apprehension. Wanting to show support for their students and also, frankly, find support themselves, the Brandts from California and the Fritzes from Nebraska joined the Georgia Tech Parents Board.

They found the community they were looking for. “This school has done a nice job of making us feel as parents that we are part of the family,” Eric Brandt said. “Better than any institution we have been involved in directly or through our other children.”

It was through the Parents Board that they got to know Vice President and Dean of Students John Stein and became aware of the role he plays in the lives of Georgia Tech students. At the helm of the Division of Student Life, Stein oversees 16 departments committed to student engagement, leadership, well-being, and success. 

While learning about the Institute’s focus on the “total graduate,” the Brandts and Fritzes also gained a heightened awareness of the obstacles to success that many Georgia Tech students face. What spoke to them and inspired their gift, they said, were the “vulnerable populations” — students affected by problems such as homelessness, food insecurity, mental health issues, and substance abuse. 

Many of these problems have always been part of the college experience, but what is new and different to these parents is Georgia Tech’s response, which is much more proactive than what they remember from back in their college days.

“The thought processes around mental health, around support of the at-risk student, the student without a food plan, the student in recovery — that wasn’t even contemplated when we were in college,” Lance Fritz recalled. “It was more about how do you discipline them or get rid of them, not how do you embrace them and help them so they can finish their education.”


A group photo of the Parents Board

The Georgia Tech Parents Board holds its first meeting of the 2017-2018 academic year with 36 of 50 members in attendance.


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Focus on Mental Health

In recent years, Georgia Tech’s emphasis on mental health issues has been demonstrated through the launch of several new programs within the Division of Student Life, such as:

Tech Ends Suicide Together (2016), an Institute-wide initiative focused on suicide prevention.

KNIT (2016), a peer mentorship program that goes beyond FASET Orientation activities to help new students transition to life at Tech.

Collegiate Recovery Program (2014), which provides a supportive and safe environment to help students in their recovery from substance abuse.

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Urgent Needs and Changing Priorities

Since Georgia Tech appointed its first dean of students in 1922, there have been only five people to hold the position, and to this day, countless alumni will readily testify to their transformative caring and dedicated service.

Many, in particular, remember Dean George Griffin (1946 – 1964), who was ready with his “hip pocket” fund to help them out of a jam. But gone are the days when a little extra folding money, discretely proffered, could resolve a host of student ills.

Now, thanks to income generated through the Brandt-Fritz Dean of Students Endowed Chair, Dean Stein and his successors will have a substantial fund that is both flexible and reliable with which to respond to urgent needs and changing priorities as they arise — and to strategically plan for the future.

“This endowment is very exciting news for the Division of Student Life and particularly for the dean of students legacy here at Georgia Tech,” Stein said. “The Brandt and Fritz families’ gift will enable us to focus on important initiatives related to student mental health and well-being and will benefit both current and future generations of Georgia Tech students.”

The couples’ sons are on track to go from students to alumni next year, at which time the Brandts and Fritzes will leave the Parents Board, but their relationship with Georgia Tech will endure — literally forever — through their endowment.

And they are confident the gift will be well-stewarded. “We’ve spent a fair amount of time with President Peterson and Dean Stein and gotten to know them,” Eric said. “We can see how important students are to them.”

Lance echoed this, while pointing out that Georgia Tech’s overall culture of excellence inspires his trust. “The institution and the standards it holds itself to, the level of investment that’s happening on campus, the expertise and skills that have tracks in both the administration and faculty — it’s all exceptional,” Lance said. “Look at how well they integrate parents — in four short years, this becomes the place we give our first large gift to, and it’s not even our alma mater.”


Portrait of Joan Roeber-Jones

Joan Roeber-Jones

Parent Giving: Parents play a vital role in the life of Georgia Tech. Through advocacy, volunteering, and philanthropy, they have a unique opportunity to become stakeholders in every Yellow Jacket's future. The Parents Fund for Student Life and Leadership provides the Institute with valuable resources to promote student health and safety, community engagement, and campus connectivity. This annual fund directly supports our top priority — students. For more information or to inquire about making a gift, contact Joan Roeber-Jones at 404.385.0527 or joan.roeber-jones@dev.gatech.edu.


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