Being on the receiving end of the active kindness of the University of Tennessee’s alumni has shaken Garrett Nelli’s philanthropic foundation.
“I am not just a caller; I am a beneficiary of the greater good of UT alumni,” says Nelli, a student caller with the UT Foundation Telefund. “You see how $25, $50, $100 add up to create a ripple effect across campus.”
Scholarships “created and maintained by alumni” have bridged the gap of what Nelli’s mom cannot afford and lessened the burden of him taking out another loan.
“I am already thinking about when I graduate and how I can give back to my alma mater,” says the Cary, North Carolina, architecture major and business administration minor.
“As an out-of-state student I have not only felt the impact of giving, but I have also enjoyed hearing UT alumni share their memories about campus.”
Nelli has even made a connection through the Telefund with a UT graduate who manages a Nashville architecture firm. “That one phone call,” he says, “could jump-start my career down the road.”
In the meantime, he is building his confidence and refining his negotiation and communications skills “that will carry me not just in my next job, but in life,” he says.
“Because he understands the importance of giving back to UT, he is able to convey this message over the phone,” explains Telefund Director Lisa Colletti-Jones. “He makes alumni understand that it’s not about the amount of money you give, but that you simply give.”
“I am not just a caller; I am a beneficiary of the greater good of UT alumni. You see how $25, $50, $100 add up to create a ripple effect across campus.” — Garrett Nelli
Each year, alumni answer the call of Nelli and more than seventy other students by pledging $600,000 or more annually to benefit a multitude of areas on all of UT’s campuses, including much-needed student scholarships. Since 1985, student callers have raised more than $9.9 million through conversations with more than 165,000 alumni. Formerly housed in the Stokely Athletic Center, the Telefund has grown into a larger facility in Andy Holt Tower. The new space can accommodate more student callers and allows the calling program to expand beyond spring and fall semesters to a year-round model.
“When I receive that call from a UT student, I will give back,” says Nelli. “Even if it’s just $25, I am going to give it back. I know the difference it makes.”