Kennesaw State and Beacon Foundation celebrate eight years of support for students

KENNESAW, Ga. | May 2, 2022

Over the past eight years, support from the Beacon Foundation Charitable Trust has helped send Kennesaw State University students on trips abroad, while also providing food and housing to students in need.

Since 2014, the Beacon Foundation has given $453,000 total to Campus Awareness, Resource & Empowerment Services (CARE) and KSU Journey Honors College. Included in that amount was $10,000 to each for COVID relief at the virus’s peak. Elizabeth Smith Williams, the Foundation’s Cobb County trustee and KSU partner, said she is proud of the effect the Foundation’s support has had on the Kennesaw State community and its students. 

Elizabeth Smith Williams
Elizabeth Smith Williams

“Our partnership with KSU has been incredibly fulfilling, especially when it comes to combating student food and housing insecurity on campus. That’s one of the accomplishments that speaks directly to our mission,” she said.

The Beacon Foundation, run by Williams and her family, was formed in 2008 with the goal to provide poverty relief and experiences not otherwise funded through traditional means. The Foundation supports arts experiences for K-12 students, travel for college students, housing and food assistance and more.

Williams said she felt since moving to Cobb County in 2007 that she had a responsibility to give to students and youth in her own backyard.

CARE Services Founding Executive Director Marcy Stidum said the Beacon Foundation is one of the reasons her organization is where it is today.

Stidum said Beacon has over the years supported CARE in a variety of ways, including funding a 1-bed, 1-bath Kennesaw campus apartment lease for temporary emergency housing for students who find themselves homeless. She said the temporary housing was the first of its kind to be integrated into university housing.

Since that initial funding, the Foundation’s support has grown to allow annual funding of a 2-bed, 2- bath Kennesaw campus apartment lease, plus emergency hotel stays, rental assistance, Atlanta Community Food Bank purchases and meal plans for students in need. 

“As a result of investments and support from donors like Beacon Foundation, CARE has become a national model for other higher education institutions,” Stidum said.

A year after Beacon Foundation initiated its partnership with CARE Services, it also began supporting KSU Journey Honors College and its President's Emerging Global Scholars program (PEGS). The mission of PEGS is to accelerate the personal, professional and academic development of exceptional Honors students. One of the main ways the program accomplishes that goal is by presenting opportunities to travel and study abroad.

Williams said travel provides a new perspective for people who haven’t yet experienced different cultures, but it could also result in networking opportunities that could result in a future job or scholarship. KSU Journey Honors College Interim Dean Ugena Whitlock agreed.

“Travel is an essential part of a well-rounded education, and thanks to Elizabeth and the Beacon Foundation, more of our students are able to broaden their horizons, both in education and in life experience,” Whitlock said. “The Beacon Foundation and supporters like it are an integral part of the success of KSU Journey Honors College and of its students.”

Williams said she believes in the power of education, and with each bit of support KSU receives, more students can focus on their education and future, rather than obstacles to success.

– By Thomas Hartwell
Photos by Judy Pishnery

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit