The $25,000 endowed Northwest North Carolina Scholarship established by Jeff and Vicki Gray is intended to help students from the northwest region of the state pursue their educational dreams with a reduced debt burden – a commitment the Grays first made to their own children.
Jeff Gray ’86, vice president and assistant general counsel for Lowe’s Companies, Inc., has always given regularly to his alma mater, but he wasn’t aware of the possibility of endowing a scholarship until Louise Harris, regional director of advancement at UNC School of Law, sat down with him to discuss it.
“I’ve always been committed to do what I can to support the University,” he explains. “We routinely gave the same amount for many years, and in a good year I might increase it some.”
Harris showed Gray that with a small increase over a five-year period he and his wife could create a scholarship that would have a lasting benefit for a number of students – and Gray says he found the prospect deeply appealing.
He and his wife both have roots in the counties of northwest North Carolina, so when they began planning their scholarship program they decided to focus on supporting students from that area. Additionally, Gray says, he felt that the scholarship would give alumni in those counties a rallying objective for fundraising.
Gray says that, as he witnesses legal training and practice becoming more specialized, he feels that generalists are increasingly valuable, especially in rural counties like those of his northwest North Carolina home.
He hopes his scholarship program will allow students from the area to obtain their legal education and then return to their home counties (although this is not a requirement of the scholarship) to participate in the community and contribute to the growth of the region.
“I’ve always felt that that part of North Carolina is a true gem,” he said. “We have some amazing wilderness areas, including the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s a challenge for rural areas to develop economically but still protect those assets.
“Part of this scholarship is to encourage a lot of students to step back and remember who they are and where they come from, and how important that place is to the makeup of all individuals,” Gray says.
This story is an excerpt from the Fall-Winter 2011 issue of
-November 28, 2011