June 5, 2020

'We’ve made a real impact'

Board Chair David Ratcliffe writes fellow Trustees on the 30th anniversary of GRA

June 6, 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the Georgia Research Alliance. For the rest of the year, GRA will celebrate with acknowledgments and appreciations of those who helped build and develop the organization.

GRA Board Chair David Ratcliffe kicks us off with the following letter, sent to fellow Trustees on the GRA Board on Friday afternoon, June 5:


June 5, 2020

Fellow Trustees:

Anniversaries sometimes have a way of sneaking up on you. An important one arrives tomorrow: The 30th year of the Georgia Research Alliance.

What began as a novel idea in the late 1980s became a unique organization in 1990 – a true alliance of government, private industry and academia, working together to grow Georgia's economy by expanding university research and entrepreneurship.

You probably remember when you first learned about GRA. I know I do. It was in the mid-1990s, and I was returning to Atlanta to join The Southern Company. Just a few years later, while CEO of Georgia Power, I had the good fortune to be invited to join the Board of Trustees.

I say "good fortune" because to advance GRA is to contribute to our state's growth in a way that's really remarkable. In bringing the greatest scientific minds to Georgia, providing them with state-of-the-art tools, and seeding and shaping companies around their inventions – we've made a real impact.

Billions of additional dollars, public and private, have flowed to our universities and startups. More students have graduated with invaluable lab experience, making them better prepared for high-tech jobs. And perhaps most important, Georgia's reputation as a center of innovation has grown stronger. GRA has helped our state build a better case for why companies should put down roots here.

I should add that GRA’s impact is not confined to our past – in fact, we’re witnessing it right now. As you read this, Georgia’s university scientists are at work on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to battle the highly infectious COVID-19 disease. The contributions they’re making are significant and impressive.

I take delight in following threads from the first days of GRA. Tom Cousins and Lawrence Gellerstedt, Jr. were the early guiding lights; Tom remains an Emeritus Trustee, and the Gellerstedt family's involvement continues with Larry Gellerstedt III, a current Trustee and past Chair. The same is true of the Russell family. Herman was on that first Board of Trustees, and his son Michael serves today. Also serving on the inaugural Board was Bradley Currey, Jr., who continues to be a presence at our meetings, sharing wisdom and insight. And an initial $500,000 grant to establish GRA's operations came from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, which back then was led by Pete McTier, our current Secretary/Treasurer.

In these uncertain times for our state and nation, it's never been more important for each of us to find a way to make a difference. As a Trustee of the Georgia Research Alliance, you are doing just that. Many answers to the needs of our world and the challenges facing humankind will emerge from universities. Together, we are making sure Georgia's great universities are better prepared to make their contributions.

I'm thankful to share in this important mission with you.

Happy Anniversary,


David M. Ratcliffe
Board Chair