University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Major gift to Carolina Volleyball supports FORevHER 50 Years campaign

A $1 million gift from a former Carolina Volleyball star enhances a historic fundraising campaign to celebrate 50 years of Carolina Women’s Athletics.

Donna Lee Gutterman ’79, ’98 (MBA), of Raleigh, North Carolina, pledged a gift to the Carolina Volleyball Operating Endowment Fund in honor of Dr. Beth Miller, Carolina Volleyball, Coach Sagula, Gutterman’s former teammates and alumnae.

“The years I spent playing volleyball at UNC were the most influential of my life, and I am honored to be in the position to help perpetuate it for future generations,” said Gutterman, who was the first scholarship volleyball player at Carolina. “My parents taught me how important it is to contribute to causes that are important to me.”

Gutterman’s gift is part of the FORevHER Tar Heels initiative led by The Rams Club and Carolina Athletics to champion the women of Carolina Athletics’ past, present and future by supporting scholarships, facilities and mentorship and leadership development opportunities for future generations of women student-athletes.

The FORevHER 50 Years campaign is part of the 50 Years of Carolina Women’s Athletics effort to highlight the champions, legends and leaders who have propelled Carolina’s rich history of success in women’s athletics since the passage of Title IX legislation. The campaign will help raise funds to ensure continued excellence throughout Carolina’s 15 varsity women’s programs — on the playing field, in the classroom and through lifelong lessons.

June 23, 2022, will mark the 50th anniversary of Congress passing Title IX of the Education Amendments prohibiting gender discrimination in any education program, including athletics. Five decades later, the FORevHER 50 Years campaign secures the future of Carolina Women’s Athletics through philanthropy FOR HER.

The campaign demonstrates Carolina’s belief in the power of sport to lift women, influence communities and connect people.

“Donna’s generous gift is a testament to the impact women’s athletics has had at Carolina,” said Bubba Cunningham, Carolina’s director of athletics. “Carolina established seven women’s varsity programs in 1971-72, before the passage of Title IX, and continues to build on its legacy of providing opportunities for champions, legends and leaders to thrive and grow. We appreciate Donna’s commitment to the power of sports for young women and for the chance to honor a pioneer like Beth Miller and our volleyball program.”

Gutterman is honoring Dr. Beth Miller, who retired in 2015 as senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator after a 40-year career with Carolina Athletics. Miller was assistant coach of women’s volleyball during Gutterman’s freshman year. When Gutterman was a sophomore, Miller took over as head coach. Miller continued to take on many roles at UNC-Chapel Hill, serving as softball coach and business manager.

“[Miller] modeled for us what character looks like and guided us to establish our individual character,” Gutterman said. to understand the rules of not only the game, but whatever we chose to do in life, and she taught us teamwork. These have been the greatest lessons of my life.”

Gutterman also praised Miller for taking a group of strangers from all over the country and forming them into a team. Those teammates formed lifelong friendships with Gutterman, now retired from a 40-year career as a pharmaceutical executive. “I am grateful to count Mary Alice (Abdalla) Steinhardt and Jane (Foley) Bell as close friends, despite the many miles and years that separate us,” Gutterman said. “When we do meet, it is easy to transform right back to being teammates.”

“I am extremely touched by Donna’s generosity,” said Miller. “I am especially appreciative that she has chosen to support the volleyball program that we both love, as well as all of the women student-athletes at Carolina. Donna is an incredible person and a dear friend of mine. She is a wonderful example of the strong women we want our student-athletes to aspire to be.”

Gutterman has been a fan of Carolina Volleyball since the moment she graduated. She has high praise for Head Coach Joe Sagula. “He’s not just about the athlete,” Gutterman said. “I see Coach Sagula and his staff and the things they’re doing in support of women’s volleyball, and I see that same sort of fundamental teaching of young women how to be better adults. I can’t help but want to perpetuate that.”

Gutterman said she has full confidence in Sagula and his staff and wanted to give them the freedom to decide how to allocate money from her gift, which is why the funds are unrestricted. “I have great respect for Coach Sagula as a leader,” she said. “I think the best thing I can do is put the money in his hands, to spend the money as he sees fit, to grow his program,” she said.

Gutterman also serves as a mentor to two student-athletes, passing on the lessons Dr. Miller taught to Natalie Chandler ’21 (women’s soccer) and Katherine Ward ’24 (swimming and diving). To date, two students have been awarded Gutterman Scholarships: Nia Parker-Robinson (2021-22) and Mayle Mitrovich (2020-21).

Gutterman’s generosity to her alma mater through the years reflects her appreciation for the academic and athletic opportunities afforded to her at Carolina. “I’m the one that got the greatest gift in all of this,” she said.

Gutterman said she feels fortunate to be able to give back in this way, but also knows other donors who give smaller amounts consistently over several years to equal effect for the recipient and satisfaction for the donors. “Over time, these gifts add up,” she said. “The gifts along the way matter just as much. You can make a difference either way.”

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