Why They Give

Jerry Tolley ’82 EdD

Winning football coach, public servant, respected sports author, successful fundraiser, and devoted family man, Dr. Jerry Tolley ’82 has exemplified UNCG’s motto of “Service” throughout his life. His record of giving and doing includes winning conference, district, and back-to-back national championships as coach of the Elon University football team, for which he was awarded multiple honors, including national coach-of-the-year. A published sports author in 25 countries, Tolley’s dynamism in athletics is matched by his public service to the town of Elon for more than 30 years, including five terms as mayor. In recognition of his continuous gifts of time and expertise, Tolley has been awarded North Carolina’s highest honors: The Order of the Long Leaf Pine and The Old North State Award. UNCG’s Alumni Association also bestowed the WC Legacy Award to Tolley in 2015, and the School of Health and Human Sciences presented him with its Distinguished Alumni Award in 2017. Tolley pays his generosity forward with philanthropic commitments to non-profits and higher education.

Tolley’s support at his doctoral alma mater includes service on the first Health and Human Performance Alumni Board and the establishment of two scholarships. The Jerry R. Tolley Endowed Education Scholarship is an expression of his devotion to family and excellence in education. Established in 2018, it honors the women in his family: his wife, Joan M. Tolley ’81 MEd, an accomplished educator, and his daughters-in-law, Hope Ballard Tolley ’98 and Gina Curl Tolley ’01. The Jerry and Joan Morrison Tolley/Gail M. Hennis Teaching Excellence Award for Graduate Faculty in the School of Health and Human Sciences celebrates the teaching excellence of renowned Professor Gail M. Hennis, Tolley’s doctoral advisor. Although Hennis received numerous accolades for her work, it was her patience, accessibility, and encouragement that impressed him most during his graduate experience at UNCG.

For this public servant, author and coach, it was a professor’s tenacious concern for student success – his success – that inspired Tolley to give back to his alma mater. For Jerry Tolley, service is a way of life.

Story by Zoe Dillard, Donor Relations


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P. Kevin Williamson

Associate Vice Chancellor