Parker H. Petit: Advancing Science and Learning

Parker H. “Pete” Petit chooses his investments carefully, and in the past year, he  once again demonstrated his faith in the future of Georgia State University with a $1.5 million gift toward GSU’s Football Practice Complex.

“There is now a tremendous opportunity for Georgia State to increase its preeminence from an educational standpoint,” Petit said, “and become a very, very strong economic driver for Atlanta as well as Georgia.”

Petit’s history with Georgia State dates back to 1970. That’s when, shortly after he launched his first company, Healthdyne, Inc., he realized he needed to quickly gain business acumen to be successful in the entrepreneurial world. At night he worked toward an MBA at Georgia State and learned accounting and finance, among other essential business tools. He graduated in 1973 with an MBA in finance.

“If I had not been able to go to Georgia State at night, I probably would have had a business failure somewhere early on,” said Petit.

Failure never occurred. Forty years later, Petit is now positioned as chairman and CEO of MiMedx Group, Inc., an integrated developer, manufacturer and marketer of biomaterial-based products. And over the years, he has given generously to GSU. His gift of $5 million gave rise to the Parker H. Petit Science Center, which opened in spring of 2010 and is set to boost GSU’s research and education stature. And his most recent gift of $1.5 million for the Football Practice Complex is the largest contribution ever made to the Department of Athletics.

“Pete is an incubator and cultivator of new ideas,” said Cheryl L. Levick, athletics director at GSU. “Look at the companies he’s built and sold. He has been captivated by our dream of football and felt it worthy to support.”

Petit, who played high school football and coached his son’s youth football teams, has a long-standing friendship with and respect for GSU football coach Bill Curry. He also has seen the powerful connection between sports and academics.

“I felt strongly that a football program at Georgia State would assist the university in becoming a broader educational institute,” he said.

Petit, who has served on the Board of Trustees of the Georgia Research Alliance, had a similar instinct about what a state-of-the-art, 350,000 square-foot science center could do for a university that, he noted, had achieved success in the sciences despite a lack of sufficient space. He has already seen his generous donation attract top talent to GSU.

The Petit Center will house three of the university’s five prestigious Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholars: biologist Dr. Julia Hilliard, immunologist Dr. Jian-Dong Li, and cancer researcher Dr. Binghe Wang. The GRA, a public-private partnership, helps build the state’s technology-rich economy through attracting scholars to the state’s research universities; helping to create centers of research excellence; and converting research into products, services and jobs that drive the economy.

And while the Petit Science Center will help facilitate groundbreaking research by scholars like these, Petit sees students as the ultimate beneficiaries.

“I told the students at the ribbon cutting ceremony that beneficial wealth is created in this country by science and technology,” he said. “So I said you have a real opportunity through the science center to build your career and to create wealth and prosperity for yourself and many others.”

—Contact Donor Relations Director Kim Cretors, (404) 413-3424