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Former UA President, Chancellor Robert Witt honored as namesake of university fellows program

Former President of the University of Alabama and Chancellor of the University of Alabama System, Dr. Robert Witt, left a monolithic legacy at the Capstone and across the universities of the UA System.

Thanks to a significant contribution from an alum and a vote of the UA System Board of Trustees, one of the most prestigious academic programs at the Capstone is now named the Witt University Fellows Program.

Students in the select program earn a minor in social innovation and leadership, develop service projects with partners in the Black Belt and Tuscaloosa communities, and conduct research with UA professors.

Witt, who is still a professor in the school’s honors college, spoke about the significance of the donation.

“As I’ve reflected on this incredibly generous gift and honor, I know there’s a foundation to help ensure that University Fellows will endure and be a part of Honors College in perpetuity,” Witt said.

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Dr. Allen Yeilding, chair of the Honors College Board of Visitors, specifically mentioned the gracious alumna by name.

“I’ve been fortunate to be in the dirt with Honors College students for 20 years,” he said. “So, it’s an honor and privilege that Reta Mudd saw the vision and the opportunity to not only help the University and young people, but also our community, culture, and country.”

Mudd passed away in October of 2022 at the age of 94. A Tuscaloosa native, Mudd was introduced to Honors College leadership and students around 2015. She and her son, Bill Mudd, also a UA alumnus, have been supporters of the Honors College ever since.

Dr. Tiffany Sippial, dean of UA’s Honors College, said that the gift demonstrates Reta and the Mudd family’s commitment to academia.

“The Mudd family’s transformative gift stands as a testament to their unwavering dedication to the advancement of higher education and the cultivation of intellectual excellence,” said Sippial. “This exceptionally generous endowment establishes an enduring legacy that will enrich a dynamic community devoted to fostering critical thinking, innovation, and a lifelong love for learning.”

Dr. Dana Patton, director of the program, said the gift from the Mudd family will also support the Witt University Fellows Program in the following ways:

  • Expanding professional development services offered to fellows.
  • Providing scholarship support to fellows for summer internship experiences and presentations at academic conferences.
  • Establishing seed grants for significant Magnum Opus projects.
  • Creating immersion experiences focused on economic development, culture and ecology and supporting shadowing opportunities with professionals in the region.
  • Procuring and maintaining an inventory of critical items to support the activities of Witt Fellows, such as work tools for the Black Belt Experience, software licenses and audiovisual equipment.

Dr. Witt served as president of the University from 2003 to 2012 and chancellor of the University of Alabama System from 2012 to 2016.

Austen Shipley is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News.

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