Campus News

The Bill Gatton Foundation makes 3rd $5 Million gift for scholarships

Bill Gatton with UK President Eli Capilouto in 2018. Mark Cornelison | UK Photo

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 26, 2024) — Continuing its historic commitment to the success of University of Kentucky students, The Bill Gatton Foundation is contributing $5 million toward student scholarships, targeted in ways that will help eliminate unmet financial need among Kentuckians and for students interested in medical careers.

The gift, which was approved by the UK Board of Trustees at its February meeting, is the third such contribution, now totaling $15 million, toward student scholarships. The first gift from Gatton, approved in February 2022 by the board, was the largest single scholarship gift UK had ever received. Subsequent gifts, following Gatton’s passing in April 2022, were made by The Bill Gatton Foundation.

“Mr. Gatton’s impact stretches throughout and beyond the state of Kentucky. But nowhere is it more transformative — more deeply felt and cherished — than in the lives of students who earn Gatton scholarships," said UK President Eli Capilouto. "Mr. Gatton's legacy will persist for generations. Thanks to his vision for Kentucky and confidence in the power of this place, we are graduating more outstanding citizens poised to advance this Commonwealth through world-class health care, innovative research and outstanding education. I am profoundly thankful to The Bill Gatton Foundation for perpetuating what he believed was and is possible.”

As with previous gifts, the most recent contribution targets areas deemed essential for the Commonwealth’s workforce and health care needs:

  • Current UK students from each of Kentucky’s 120 counties are eligible for awards through the UK LEADS program, with scholarships supplying $1,000-$15,000 per student per year based on financial need and academic progress toward graduation.
  • First-year UK students from Muhlenberg and McLean counties and undergraduate students who attended The Gatton Academy — an early college entrance program for gifted students — are eligible for merit-based scholarship awards. The scholarships, which may be renewed annually for up to four years, will provide up to $15,000 per student, per year.
  • Forty scholarships of up to $25,000 will be awarded to students from Kentucky in UK’s College of Medicine. Preference will be given to first-year students from medically underserved counties.

To date, the Bill Gatton Scholarship Program has awarded 94 merit scholarships for undergraduate students, 100 merit scholarships for medical students, and 1,178 scholarships through the UK LEADS program. Additional scholarships will be awarded for the upcoming 2024-25 academic year. This scholarship program has reached students from 119 counties across the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

“The impact Mr. Gatton’s combined gifts have on students’ lives and our community cannot be overstated” Kirsten Turner, UK’s vice president for Student Success, said. “These contributions continue to provide transformational support to students with unmet financial need, on top of all his generous gifts throughout campus, allowing them to persist towards graduation and future success in life.”

Bill Gatton, UK’s single largest donor, passed away in April 2022. Gifts from Mr. Gatton and his foundation have transformed the University of Kentucky. His philanthropy support includes record-breaking gifts to the Gatton College of Business and Economics and the Gatton Student Center. In June, the UK Board of Trustees approved a $100 million gift from The Bill Gatton Foundation to what is now called the Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. That gift is not only the largest to the university in its nearly 160-year history but is also believed to be the largest to a college of agriculture in the United States.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.