Great Teachers and Great Students

November 14, 2018

Todd and Mary Georgi at Machu Picchu


Todd Georgi, C’69, answers the phone at his house in Lincoln, Nebraska, cheerfully, happy to talk about Sewanee, but he says that next week would be better, so his wife, Mary, will have an opportunity to talk, too. “She is more eloquent,” he says, but she is not home. Calendars are compared and a date is made, but then Georgi says, “Do you have a few minutes?” Sure. And the story comes quickly into resolution.

“We are both teachers, and we know they are rarely recognized, and especially rarely financially,” Georgi explains, making reference to a new endowment the couple will create at Sewanee through an estate commitment. That endowment will recognize excellence in teaching with an annual award to a slate of faculty members at important points in their careers. 

Georgi’s Sewanee story started when his father, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln chose seven approved schools to which his son could apply. From that list, which included Bowdoin, Lawrence, and Middlebury, Georgi chose Sewanee. 

“That first year was really hard,” says Georgi. “Even though I went to one of the best preparatory schools in Nebraska, I had a difficult time with the work. It was a disaster.” After the first year, however, something clicked, and Georgi began to excel, earning top marks in classes and, as a senior, on standardized tests that determined whether he’d be able to attend graduate school. “Harry Yeatman built a fire under me,” Georgi remembers, “and [Professor] Malcolm Owen fanned the flames.” 

The following Tuesday, Mary Georgi weighs in. “In over 45 years of teaching, I have received certificates, wooden plaques, and apples to assure me I was doing my job in my classroom. I would just like to see teachers recognized for their contributions to the profession with money—no strings attached.”

Between them, the Georgis have, according to Todd’s calculation, 84 years of teaching experience. 

The Georgis’ estate commitment will also establish a scholarship at Sewanee for students in biology and English, the couple’s respective fields. “It’s great teachers and excellent students who make a college, and we certainly do think Sewanee is great, so that is why we hope to establish both a scholarship and a faculty excellence award through our estate,” says Todd.

Georgi’s formative experiences at Sewanee shaped an opinion about the University that remains intact after almost 50 years. He believes it is excellent, and he wants to help provide the resources that will keep it that way. 

For information about estate planning, contact Allison Cardwell,