Georgia Historical Society Receives Gift from Savannahian Ellen B. Bolch in Memory of Coach Vince Dooley

Staff Report

Wednesday, May 10th, 2023

The Georgia Historical Society (GHS) is pleased to announce an endowment pledge of $500,000 from Ellen B. Bolch of Savannah in memory of Vince Dooley. Bolch is the President and CEO of THA Group, a family of in-home health companies serving coastal Georgia and South Carolina. She is also a current member of the GHS Board of Curators.

The gift will help GHS reach its $20 million endowment goal, a key priority of GHS’s Next Century Initiative campaign. As GHS prepares to enter its third century as the premier independent statewide historical institution, the Next Century Initiative is designed to propel the institution forward, to create new opportunities, and to secure GHS’s commitment to serving the people of Georgia in the 21st century and beyond.

The campaign was initially chaired by the late Vincent J. Dooley, legendary head coach of the University of Georgia football team and former chairman emeritusand longtime member of the GHS Board of Curators. Dooley was also named a Georgia Trustee in 2011, the highest honor the State of Georgia can confer. He died on October 28, 2022.

“Right after he died, I was struck by the fact that Coach Dooley launched this campaign but now would not get the chance to complete it,” Bolch said. “I thought what better way to honor his memory than by helping to finish this campaign and get the ball in the endzone, so to speak, for my dear friend who gave so much of himself to us all.” Bolch hopes that this pledge will motivate others to give in memory of Coach Dooley and in honor of his passion for history.

Bolch and Dooley were great friends. They first met as co-chairs of GHS’s Georgia History Festival committee. She and her husband, Jeep, became good friends with the Dooley family and would visit with them for tours of Dooley’s gardens in Athens. Bolch and Dooley often swapped books they wanted to read and would exchange long text messages discussing great works of literature, like a Flannery O’Connor short story.

“His mind was so rich, and he was so varied in his interests,” she said. “This kind of man doesn’t come around often. We were blessed to have him on the earth at the same time we are.”

As part of Bolch’s endowment pledge, the study in the GHS Research Center will be named the Vincent J. Dooley Study, which will include a plaque and photograph honoring Coach Dooley.

“It was really important to do something special for Coach,” she said. “I was especially honored to be asked to speak about Coach’s legacy at the Dooley Distinguished Fellows induction last November.” Her tribute was adopted as a resolution by the Board of Curators of the Georgia Historical Society and was immortalized in the GHS minutes.

Nearly half a century ago, the Georgia Historical Society created an Endowment Fund to ensure the future of GHS, one of the oldest historical societies in the nation. Governed by an independent Board of Curators, the purpose of the GHS Endowment is twofold: to provide perpetual care for, and access to, the oldest archival collection of Georgia history in the nation and to ensure the delivery of rich and varied targeted educational and public programs for teachers, students, and general audiences.

The Georgia Historical Society Endowment Fund extends to donors a unique opportunity to provide perpetual support in fulfillment of GHS’s educational and research mission to collect, examine, and teach Georgia history.

“On behalf of the Georgia Historical Society and our Board of Curators, I want to extend my sincere thanks to Ellen and her husband Jeep for this generous gift,” said Dr. W. Todd Groce, President and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. “This is a heartfelt way to honor the memory and legacy of Coach Vince Dooley beyond the football field, a true leader who exemplified the principles of the original Georgia Trustees in 1733, ‘Not for self, but for others.’ We are incredibly grateful for Ellen’s leadership, generosity, and enduring support of the Georgia Historical Society.”

Ellen Burnsed Bolch was born in Savannah, Georgia, to Olin Louis and Mary Elsie Smith Burnsed. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the Medical College of Georgia and her master’s degrees in nursing and healthcare administration from Penn State University. Bolch is heavily involved in her industry and community, having served on numerous national, regional, and local boards, including the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC) and the National Medicaid Action Council affiliated with NAHC.

In addition to serving on the GHS Board of Curators, Bolch has also served as president of the Rotary Club of Savannah and as chair of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society at the United Way. She has been an active member of the boards of Georgia Southern University Foundation, the Union Society of Bethesda, the Chatham Club, and the Advisory Board of Savannah Country Day School. She is the recipient of several awards, including Honeywell HomMed’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Telehealth; the AWWIN Monica LaRue Award, a regional honor given to a woman who motivates and inspires other women to pursue their dreams and visions; induction into Junior Achievement’s Business Hall of Fame; and she was named Woman of the Year by the United Way of the Coastal Empire.

Bolch was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2018. She has also been a health care educator at Armstrong State University, and the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

She married Dr. Sidney Jefferson Bolch III (Jeep) in 1992, and between them they have three sons, two daughters, and ten grandchildren. They established the Ellen and Jeep Bolch Fund at the Georgia Historical Society in 2018, ensuring that their commitment to Georgia history will continue in perpetuity.

For more information about the GHS Endowment Fund, or the Next Century Initiative campaign, please contact Cherie Trice at [email protected].