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An Enduring Love to Make UT Martin an "Even Better Place"

Mary Jo and Lew Dougherty

Mary Jo and Lew Dougherty, pictured with former UT Student Alumni Associate Anne Buckle '11, seek to transform the lives of UT students with a multi-million dollar bequest and charitable remainder trust. At UT Martin, the creation of the Dougherty University Scholars Program will offer a distinctive educational experience that will include a study abroad component. At UT Knoxville, athletics, music and the library will benefit from their uncommon generosity.

Married for more than half a century, Mary Jo Dougherty is "still the cutest" to Lew Dougherty. "She was absolutely the cutest little redhead I had ever seen," Lew says with awe, as if it were just yesterday when he was captivated by Mary Jo Baldwin at UT Knoxville.

It was 1948. Both were freshmen. Lew was following his father's footsteps to become a dentist, while Mary Jo was studying home economics. With Knoxville's Tennessee Theatre as the backdrop, their first date was at a UT game-day pep rally on Gay Street. "I was a big-time spender," Lew says with a sarcastic laugh.

Mary Jo was smitten. She graduated in 1952, and two years later became Lew's bride after he graduated with his dentistry degree from the UT Health Science Center.

"I graduated on a Monday evening and that Saturday we were married in the Presbyterian church in Mary Jo's hometown of Sevierville," Lew says. "She put her life in my hands— we've been holding each other ever since. My proudest accomplishment by far is our marriage."

"Mine too," Mary Jo chimes in softly.

"It is the foundation and glue," says Lew, "to everything else we have done."

Transforming Lives
Their lives are a beautiful metaphor for what love can be. What love can give and create, beyond themselves, for the prosperity of future generations. As the authors of philanthropic investments, which include a multi-million dollar bequest and charitable remainder trust, the Doughertys seek to transform the lives of students in the Honors Program at UT Martin. The creation of the Dougherty University Scholars Program will offer a distinctive educational experience that will include a study abroad component.

"Traveling offers a golden opportunity to understand and appreciate other cultures," Lew says.

With an international roster of favorite places from South America to Northern Italy, the Doughertys know firsthand the difference traveling abroad makes. "It's an experience that leaves a lasting impression," Mary Jo says.

Their uncommon generosity and vision to create educational opportunities in perpetuity for Tennesseans continues at UT Knoxville in athletics, music and the library. "UT Martin, in particular, provides an educational lifeline for West Tennessee, and we are grateful we can be part of such an amazing asset," Lew says.

"Although we never attended UT Martin, it's in our backyard," Lew says. An hour or so from their Camden, Tenn., abode, "UT Martin is sort of a UT home away from home for us," adds Mary Jo. "We are pleased to be able to invest in UT Martin in hopes that it will be an even better place for the best and brightest students."

"UT was the best back then— and still is," says Lew about his decision to study dentistry at UT. "My father, who was a dentist, was my hero. I knew I wanted to be a dentist because of him."

A retired Naval Commander, Lew practiced dentistry for two years in the United States Navy Dental Corps and remained in the Naval Reserve for 18 more years. He spent 40 years in private practice. Mary Jo joined her husband's practice and managed the bookkeeping after a stint running the cotton testing laboratory at Anderson Clayton Cotton Company.

An Unbreakable Connection to UT
"No matter where we were in our lives and careers, we've never been disconnected from UT," Lew says. Their decades-long dedication to UT has led them to be foot soldiers "for a very special place." A leader in UT fundraising efforts and a UT Development Council member, Lew has served as the president of the UT National Alumni Association, the National Annual Giving chair, and chair of the UT Martin Development Council twice. He most recently served as the co-chair of the Campaign for Tennessee for UT Martin.

Mary Jo is counted as a remarkable ambassador for her service as past chair of the UT Alumni Association's Women's Council and past member of the Board of Governors' Executive Committee. A longtime member of the UT Martin Arts Council Board, Mary Jo is a charter member of the UT Alliance of Women Philanthropists.

The couple received the UT Knoxville Chancellor's Citation for Extraordinary Service to the University in 1987 and the UT Martin Chancellor's Award for University Service in 2004. It was the first time that either of these awards had been given to a couple.

In recognition of their distinguished leadership, UT Martin named the Tennessee Room, which is housed in the Holland McCombs Center with the Honors Program, in their honor.

"While all of the recognitions are nice and quite humbling, they are fleeting," Lew says. "It's our legacy that will remain."

Leave Your Legacy
Learn more about leaving your legacy with a planned gift to support UT students and programs. Contact the Office of Planned Giving at (865) 974-4826 or plannedgiving@tennessee.edu for confidential information today.

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