During the month of March, I had the pleasure of interviewing two of UGA Costa Rica’s donors, Gail Hunnicutt and Paul Gross. They each shared with me a plethora of intimate stories, which demonstrate the reasons for which they continue to support UGA Costa Rica and encourage students to study abroad. Their gushing enthusiasm for this campus as well as their fervor for education is evident in their delightfully crafted, stimulating responses.
Without further ado, let’s meet Paul Gross!
Paul Gross stands with his wife, Roni, on the porch of the Paul A. Gross Faculty Residence, a faculty house dedicated to Mr. Gross for his work in having established the Paul A. Gross Undergraduate Student Support Fund, which aids students in studying abroad at UGA Costa Rica.
What is your affiliation with UGA?
My affiliation with the University of Georgia, quite frankly, first came about at a very young age as a seventh grade cadet at Riverside Military Academy located in Gainesville, Georgia in 1952.
Sandy Beaver was the owner and Founder of Riverside. He was a graduate of the University of Georgia along with his classmate, Herman Talmadge, later to become Governor of the State of Georgia.
I mention this brief history because on my first day at Riverside, General Beaver put his arm on my shoulder and said, “Son, it is not what you are today that matters, it is what you will become that counts.” That was my first introduction to a lesson in values; to a picture of reward from a developmental dream; to what commitment to an education meant and service to that and those who helped bring you along. Most importantly through General Beaver, I received my first introduction to the University of Georgia, which engraved upon me at a very tender age the valor and importance of not only a good education, but also in the value of selection and service.
“In September of 1959 I was accepted to and transferred to UGA to complete my undergraduate education.”
In September of 1959 I was accepted to and transferred to UGA to complete my undergraduate education. Georgia was the right fit for the puzzle of my life at that particular time. I was exposed to a Georgia culture through the University, through the faculty, and through that which the University gave to me and allowed me to become through growth, maturity and education. I had climbed the second step of my affiliation ladder with UGA, really not knowing at that time when the additional affiliations would evolve.
Please describe an experience/visit to the UGA Costa Rica campus that stands out for you.
I believe it was in 2006 the Georgia Review Magazine featured a cover story on the University of Georgia Costa Rica, its uniqueness as a distant learning campus, its dedicated on-site faculty, and most importantly on a six week course studying the entomology population of Costa Rica, highlighting Costa Rican butterflies, taught by Professor Jim Porter. I applied to audit the course, not really knowing what lay ahead.
“Simply living on an eco driven, Costa Rican culturally designed campus in the middle of the jungle in a foreign country was in itself a life enlightening experience for me at the tender age of 70.”
I cannot begin to tell you how much my experience at UGA Costa Rica meant to me. Things I never dreamed of occurred. Simply living on an eco driven, Costa Rican culturally designed campus in the middle of the jungle in a foreign country was in itself a life enlightening experience for me at the tender age of 70. Every day geometrically exploded into one asset after another. Sitting at the dining room table every day with the students and the faculty gave me an exposure to their perception and need for an education in such a unique setting with such talented faculty.
There was one student from the University of Missouri who each day would wait after the meal and we would just chat about life, her dreams of what and how she was to become, what she wanted to be, and in addition making me feel that my life’s adventure aided her’s in thinking through the challenges she faced. Soon other students took up the same opportunity, and I was having great sessions with many students every day.
Can you put your finger on what it is about UGA Costa that makes you a proud long-time supporter and why others should be empowered to follow your example?
To have participated in a living laboratory of nature, wrapped with educational bonding, and feeling the ingrained need and appreciation of the students, I determined that the reward to me would be emotionally, physically and mentally stimulating to participate through UGA philanthropy in support of the UGA Costa Rica Campus.
“I have gained a vicarious identity with each and every student in their plight of life, education, growth and maturity to feel with them the need not just to get an education, but to build your life around seeding the soil for the future educational needs of students, faculty and our University.”
Blog post contribution by Alex Fylypovych, UGA Costa Rica Photojournalism Intern