News & Messages

Recognizing our bridge builders

To help tell the story of UNC-Chapel Hill’s past, Carolina is shining a spotlight on investments in the future.

At last year’s University Day, Chancellor Carol L. Folt announced that dozens of existing need-based scholarships would be named in honor of Noteworthy Firsts — people who broke down barriers at Carolina and opened doors for generations of students to follow. The suggestion came from then-graduate student Shelby Dawkins Law during the 2015 Town Hall on Race and Inclusion at Carolina, Folt said.

“The request was to find ways to increase the visibility and reflect the true diversity of the courageous people who have and continue to build our University and to make it truly ‘the University of the People,’” Folt recalled at this year’s University Day ceremony.

Since then, students who earned their way to Carolina and qualified for scholarships found their awards named for people like Sallie Walker Stockard, the first woman to graduate from Carolina, or Richard Epps, the first black student body president. (See the full list.) A special reception to celebrate the renaming of the scholarships was held this month. Five of the honorees were able to attend and meet many of the scholarship recipients.

The University is now expanding the initiative with a call to nominate Bridge Builders — people who helped unite and strengthen the Carolina community through their work and advocacy.

Nominations are open through Oct. 31, and a campus committee will select the next group to lend their names to student scholarships. The nomination form is available online.

“We think it’s an opportunity to tell these stories while making a tangible impact for students,” said Rachelle Feldman, Carolina’s director of scholarships and student aid. “There’s something almost poetic in recognizing these people who overcame real barriers to higher education by supporting scholarships that help remove those barriers for the next generation.”

While the current round of named scholarships comes from existing University funds, the goal is to raise more private support from alumni and donors who want to celebrate the full breadth of Carolina’s history.

“We believe scholarships bearing the names of Bridge Builders will motivate our students to succeed in their own personal journeys at Carolina,” Folt said.

Anyone interested in contributing to the named scholarships should contact Terri Hegeman in the Office of University Development, or visit and search for History Makers.

By Eric Johnson, Office of Scholarships and Student Aid