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UNC-Chapel Hill announces Red, White and Carolina Blue Challenge

Steve and Debbie Vetter join University leaders and students on the field at Kenan Stadium to announce the Red, White and Carolina Blue Challenge.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. North Carolina Tar Heels October 7, 2017 at Kenan Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Campaign for Carolina launch celebration on the field at halftime. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Both the children of career Marines, Steve and Debbie Vetter know the struggles facing Carolina’s military dependents.

“We grew up as military brats and then came to the University,” Debbie said. “Our parents helped when they could, but we had to struggle to make it through financially — working full time and going to school.”

The Vetters are now giving back to UNC-Chapel Hill to help students in the same situation by donating $20 million to need-based aid for the children of service men and women. The donation will support military dependents who qualify for the Carolina Covenant, a groundbreaking initiative that affords eligible children of low-income families an opportunity to attend Carolina without loans.

“We are excited to be able to honor our fathers and our families by establishing this program to benefit the children of military service members who wish to attend UNC-Chapel Hill and who qualify for the Carolina Covenant,” the Vetters said. “Too often, we forget the many sacrifices made by the families of the military and we hope this program will, in some small way, say thank you to those families.”

As part of the public launch of the multiyear fundraising campaign, “For All Kind: The Campaign for Carolina” launched on Oct. 6, Carolina announced a $20 million challenge that will double the Vetter’s commitment to the University’s military dependents. The challenge will run through October 2019.

Recipients of the Vetters’ gift will be recognized as Steve and Debbie Vetter Military Family Scholars.

In addition to the Red, White and Carolina Blue Challenge, the Vetters also committed $10 million to support UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and $10 million to support Carolina athletics.

“As we launch the Campaign for Carolina with a focus on people and innovation, this incredibly generous and thoughtful gift from the Vetters builds on our 224-year tradition of supporting America’s service people and their families,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “Our veterans and military service members are the last to ask and the most grateful to receive. The Red, White and Carolina Blue Challenge reaffirms our ongoing pledge to create future opportunities for the men and women who serve our nation and their families.”

Carolina remains one of the few U.S. public universities that is truly need blind during the admissions process. The challenge will help sustain that tradition by meeting the full financial need of Carolina Covenant-qualifying children of retired and active duty military personnel.

North Carolina ranks third in the nation with more than 96,000 active duty personnel stationed in the state as of December 2016. Last year, the University enrolled more than 400 students with military ties. More than 50 of those students qualified for the Carolina Covenant.

Vice Provost for Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions Stephen Farmer said the Red, White and Carolina Blue Challenge will be transformative for the Carolina Covenant and the future Steve and Debbie Vetter Military Family Scholars.

“The Carolina Covenant brings incredible people to Carolina regardless of their ability to pay, and it helps them do everything that they intend to do when they walk on campus,” he said. “The Red, White and Carolina Blue Challenge will give us a chance to extend the benefits of the Covenant to the sons and daughters of people who serve our country and who probably want nothing more than the chance to see their children achieve all that they can achieve.”

Story by Brandon Bieltz and photo by Jon Gardiner, University Communications