Sanford Eugene “Gene” Younts of Austell died on Aug. 21 at 87, leaving behind a legacy of growing University of Georgia’s Public Service and Outreach as vice president of public service and outreach.
“The University of Georgia joins the family, friends and colleagues of Gene Younts in mourning the loss of such a dedicated public servant and extraordinary leader,” said President Jere W. Morehead in a press release. “Gene’s positive impact on UGA and the state of Georgia has been profound.”
Younts is survived by Ruth, his wife of 64 years, his children Greg Younts and Leslie Curl, his granddaughter Shannon Curl and brothers Richard Younts and Joel Younts.
During his 22-year tenure as vice president of public service and outreach, Younts grew UGA’s public outreach division from six units to 13. Among the divisions created under Younts are the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, Business Outreach Services, the Fanning Leadership Center, the Office of International Development, the Information Technology Outreach Service, the Museum of Natural History and the Institute of Continuing Judicial Education.
“By the end of the 1990s, UGA’s public service faculty and staff provided more than 6 million hours of service each year to the citizens of Georgia in addition to their interactions with those in other states and countries,” the press release said.
Younts came to UGA in 1969 to serve as associate dean of the College of Agriculture and director of the Rural Development Center at the Tifton campus. In 1972 Younts moved to Athens and became the second vice president for public service at UGA.
“Gene recognized the University of Georgia was in a unique position to help communities across the state address significant challenges,” said Jennifer Frum, the current vice president for public service and outreach, in the release. “We would not have the reach we have today, working with communities in each of Georgia’s 159 counties, without his vision.”
He was “instrumental” in planning an $8.4 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which was used for the expansion of the Georgia Center for Continuing Education. He also obtained funds for the renovation of the Lucy Cobb Institute, planned and led the New Faculty Tour, and started the Walter Barnard Hill Awards in 1999, which recognizes faculty for excellence in outreach.
“He was passionate about the university’s outreach programs. He was equally passionate about all of them, equally supportive,” said Helen Hudson Mills, a recipient of the 1995 Walter B. Hill Award, in the release. “He was passionate about the university because it had a land-grant mission. That’s what’s made UGA so important to the state, and he kept that mission in front of everyone.”
Mills became an associate vice president for public service and outreach in the years after Younts retired in 2001.
Younts was also engaged in the community and beyond, serving as national president of FarmHouse Fraternity, state chairman of the Georgia Heart Fund Campaign and president of the Athens Kiwanis Club. He was also a member of the Red Cross Board, Salvation Army Board, Rotary Club and Athens Area Chamber of Commerce.
His hobbies included golf, photography, gardening, travel and writing. He published four books in his lifetime. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for contributions to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at UGA.