Tech's Ivan Allen College to Honor the Smithgalls

2007 Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service recognizes Charles and Lessie Smithgalls' philanthropy

The Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Tech announces the recipients of the 2007 Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service-Charles and Lessie Smithgall. In 1988, the Smithgalls gave the anonymous $3 million gift to name a newly established Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. Charles Smithgall, now deceased, was a 1933 alumnus of Georgia Tech and life-long friend of classmate Ivan Allen Jr., the legendary former mayor of Atlanta, for which the College is named.

"The Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts is proud to award Charles and Lessie Smithgall the 2007 Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service in recognition of their generous gift made nearly 20 years ago as well as to their commitment to the arts, the environment and educational initiatives in Georgia," says Sue V. Rosser, dean of the Ivan Allen College. "In a testament to their friendship, Charles Smithgall wished to keep the gift a secret from his friend and classmate. When Ivan Allen died in 2003, he went to his grave never knowing of the extraordinary act of friendship and generosity that had led to the naming of a college in his honor."

This year marks the first time since the Ivan Allen Prize was first given in 2001 that the College will present its highest honor posthumously and also is the first time the Prize will be given to a couple. As in the past, the Prize will be awarded at the College's annual Founder's Day luncheon on March 15, the birthday of Mayor Allen.

Previous recipients of the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service include Jesse Hill Jr., Atlanta businessman and civil rights leader (2006); Will Wright, co-founder of Maxis and original designer of SimCity and The Sims computer games (2005); former Senator Sam Nunn, co-chairman and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (2004); Molly Ivins, nationally syndicated columnist (2003); Jimmy Carter, former U.S. President and Georgia Governor (2002); and Zell Miller, former U.S. Senator and Georgia Governor (2001).

The Smithgalls have a long history of giving to Georgia Tech, Atlanta and Georgia. They have contributed more than $20 million in property and money over the course of their lifetimes, which has had an extraordinary impact upon the natural environment and the arts and academic arenas.

Their gifts to the state and city include:
* Smithgall Woods, the 5,600-acre nature preserve and lodge in north Georgia that Charles Smithgall assembled over his lifetime and then acceded to the state in a gift-purchase agreement in 1994;
* The 168-acre Smithgall Woodlands Gardens in Gainesville, Ga., which the Smithgalls donated to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens in 2000 to allow the landlocked urban setting room to expand its native and endangered plant conservation program;
* Major endowments for the Atlanta Symphony, the Gainesville Arts Council and the Atlanta Zoo.

At Georgia Tech, the Smithgalls' philanthropy is responsible for three endowed chairs in the College of Sciences as well as the building that houses the Student Services division and support for student athletic facilities.

Charles Smithgall began his radio career with WGST (which stood for Georgia School of Technology), later moving to WSB. He doubled as a radio host and ad salesman boosting the revenue on his own successful show. He later purchased WRNG (later WCNN), started WGGA in Gainesville, and acquired the Gainesville Eagle (now the Gainesville Times) and the Gwinnett Daily News. He also owned a string of weekly newspapers and half-interest in the Gwinnett Daily News, which he sold to the New York Times in 1987.

More details about Founder's Day celebration and the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service are available online at