Grateful for Her ‘Second Career,’ Donna Brazzell Gave Back to Georgia State

Donna Brazzell recently made a planned gift to Georgia State by including the school as a beneficiary of her IRA, but she insists Georgia State gave her one first.

“This place has given me so much,” she says. “It’s really reshaped my whole future. I’ve gotten a second career — it’s exciting, I’m on a new adventure, learning new things and growing, and that’s a real gift to me.”

A Career 180, with Georgia State’s Help

Ten years ago, with her children grown and her home in Atlanta well established, Donna decided she wanted to re-enter the working world. “I have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry,” she remembers, “so I went back to the lab for a job interview. And I looked at it and said, ‘This isn’t me anymore.’”

Browsing through a Georgia State course catalog, though, Donna realized just how many options were open to her – some of which, such as a degree in public administration and non-profit management, hadn’t even really existed when she went to school the first time around. “I started off in the certificate program because I hadn’t been back in school for 25 years and I wasn’t real sure about things,” she says, “but once I was in there, I knew I loved it. And within a couple months I’d switched over to the graduate program.”

The classes were challenging, Donna remembers, and the work wasn’t easy. But thanks to a classroom atmosphere that emphasized the sharing of ideas over rote learning, she says she was never bored. “Many of my classmates were working at Atlanta nonprofits. Their practical experience, merged with the professors’ theory- and knowledge-based teaching, led to some phenomenal class discussions.”

‘Why Don’t I Do This Now?’

After earning her master’s in 2005, Donna wasted no time in putting her degree to use. She worked for the American Lung Association for a couple years and has been the executive director of the DeKalb Library Foundation for the last six. “I really enjoy my job every single day,” she says. “And I have used almost every single thing that I learned while I was in school. I know I couldn’t do my job today without all the knowledge and the experience that I got in class and learning from other people.”

In her current position, of course, Donna is well acquainted with the importance of charitable giving. So when she was first approached about making a donation to Georgia State, she had the same attitude she did toward attending Georgia State to begin with: Why wait?

“I just thought, ‘Why don’t I do this now? Why wait until I redo my will or something else occurs?’” she says. “It’s not really that large a gift, but I’m still young, so it could increase over the years. And I’m in fundraising, so I know that even small gifts count — you don’t have to be a million-dollar giver to make a planned gift.

“And I made it an unrestricted gift, because I feel like they’ll know best – and if my gift is not realized for another 30 years, then who knows where Georgia State will be by then and what they’ll need? Education is always changing, and communities have different needs. At one time there weren’t even computers on college campuses, now we have entire computer departments. So it’s kind of nice to leave it unrestricted and see what it can turn into.

“I’m just happy to be able to give back because it’s so important. I’ve seen such dramatic growth at Georgia State in the last eight years, and I’m really proud of my alma mater. I’m proud of the direction it’s going. And I think I want to see it continue for a long, long time.”