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From Andy Holt Scholar to UTC Philanthropist: Giving Back Comes Full Circle

Nancy Collum

Nancy Collum (UTC '78) has invested in her alma mater through her retirement plan. "I hope a student who is smart and trying to discover their own path will have the opportunity to grow and thrive, like I did," she says. Photo: Steven Bridges

Some 30 years later, the gratitude felt by Nancy Collum (UTC '78) still bubbles like a volcano erupting. Goose bumps come to the surface of her skin and a grin of awe appears as she stands next to Ann Skadberg, the daughter of legendary, larger-than-life Andy Holt, at a UT event.

"The scholarship I received was named in honor of her father, a former UT president," Nancy says.

As an Andy Holt Scholar — the most prestigious academic scholarship at the time - Nancy's tuition and books were fully paid. The philanthropic roots of Holt anchored Nancy's educational journey as a business administration major at UTC.

Long before they met, she felt connected to Ann (UTK '62). And so do countless others.

During the event, Ann and her husband, Dean (UTK '61) are repeatedly approached by students. "Thank you for my scholarship," says one. "Your gift is getting me through school." Ann and Dean are touching many lives by investing in UT as Holt once did.

Nancy still feels as if she is standing in the young girl's shoes because "I knew exactly how she felt," she says. "I still feel the same sentiment. I was so proud to be an Andy Holt Scholar at UTC."

"I remain grateful for that scholarship. Even then, I tried to pay it forward by serving and giving back as best as I knew how, by being involved with alumni activities and the student alumni council," she says. "Even before I was an alumna, I felt connected."

Growing up in the East Brainerd neighborhood, UTC was in Nancy's backyard, so she commuted to campus when she became a Moc. Forgoing a home-cooked meal became the norm.

"I wanted to volunteer at the alumni events or study on campus," she says of her absences from the dinner table. Instead, pizza sufficed after she dug through the trunk of her car - her mobile closet - for a change of clothes. "I loved being in the midst of everything on campus."

That sense of place and shared purpose has never left Nancy. Living just blocks away from campus in Chattanooga's Historic Fort Wood District, she's visited every state but Hawaii and traveled the world, but there's no place like UTC. She wants to keep it that way for future students, so she has invested a portion of her retirement plan in UTC. "I hope a student who is smart and trying to discover their own path will have the opportunity to grow and thrive, like I did."

"I am a regular person with a regular job, without a family fortune, and I can still help a student," she says.

Amid the cardboard boxes filled with class registration computer punch cards in the UTC gymnasium, Nancy wasn't quite sure what she wanted to study. "I was always envious of those who knew they wanted to be a doctor at the age of 10," she says. "I had no such premonitions."

Nancy has always been artsy. She long appreciated those disciplines that stretch the creative mind and don't always fit so neatly in a box. From singing in college choirs to her church choir to staffing the box office at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre, she easily finds her rhythm.

Her college electives — English, French, music — filled her right-brain tank, "but I knew I needed something more," she says. "I thought I was more likely to be able to earn a living with a business degree than if I majored in liberal arts. My grandmother asked me weekly about becoming a teacher or a nurse because she thought those were the only options a female had at the time."

She honed her left-brain skills and declared accounting as her concentration in UTC's College of Business. It was a decision that lead to a 35-plus year career in the banking industry, initially at SunTrust Bank in Chattanooga, and now at Northwest Georgia Bank in Ringgold, Ga., where she serves as vice president of loan review.

Quietly working behind the scenes, Nancy's seeds of loyalty to her alma mater have been sown through her service as UTC alumni council president and the UT National Alumni Association vice president. She's been a member of the UT women's council, board of governors, University of Chattanooga Foundation, Chancellor's Roundtable, and the UTC athletics board. She has served on the advisory board for accounting and finance at UTC and as the finance advisor for Alpha Delta Pi, which resulted in the well-deserved recognition of Outstanding Greek Alum in 1992.

Her dedicated service continues to rub off on the rest of the Chattanooga community at the Walter E. Boehm Birth Defects Center and the United Way of Greater Chattanooga, where she received a Community Investment Service Award in 2002. In 2008, she was humbled by being named a Woman of Distinction by the Chattanooga chapter of the American Lung Association.

"The hook was set the moment I arrived on campus," she says. "After graduating in 1978, I was slowly reeled in to become a fisherwoman of others. I'm still swimming and doing all I can to give back in reverence of what was first given to me."

If you want to leave a lasting legacy of generosity to benefit future UT students, please contact the Office of Planned Giving at (865) 974-4826 or plannedgiving@tennessee.edu.

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