Ben Darnell ’02 Creates the Seventh Co-named Park Scholarship

NC State Belltower and Raleigh skyline

Park Scholarships alumnus Ben Darnell ’02 has created a $350,000 endowment that will be matched by Park Foundation funds and support one Park Scholarship in perpetuity. Darnell’s gift marks the Park Scholarships program’s seventh Co-named Park Scholarship and the second donated by a Park Scholarships alumnus. 

Ben Darnell

Darnell was inspired to give by the value of a Park Scholar education at NC State. “I’m a big believer in public education, and it’s important that public universities be world-class,” he shared. “Programs like Park Scholarships help attract and support top students while integrating them into the university as a whole.” 

Immediately after graduating in 2002, Darnell began working at Google where he launched projects including Google Reader, an experience he likened to being “a small startup-like team within a big company.” During his seven years at Google, the company grew from about 500 to 20,000 employees. “I was blown away by how smart and hard-working everyone was. I learned a ton from everyone and forged some strong relationships from the beginning — two of my first teammates at Google were Spencer Kimball and Peter Mattis, now my co-founders at Cockroach Labs.”

After leaving Google, Darnell joined a series of smaller startups, all with under 15 employees. “It is an exciting time in a company’s life — it’s still unclear whether you’ll be able to make the product take off but you’re starting to build something useful and every week can bring big strides forward,” he explained.

Five years ago, Darnell, Kimball, and Matthis decided to create their own company, Cockroach Labs, which builds distributed database systems for businesses that need to scale rapidly while providing reliable performance to a global customer base. “I saw firsthand at Dropbox and Square how painful it can be to solve these problems with existing software, so we’re building a system to effortlessly scale and replicate data around the world,” Darnell said. He is the company’s Chief Architect, “which basically means that I was the founder who stayed in the code the longest without getting pulled into management responsibilities.” 

Working among a talented and driven group of people, whether at Cockroach Labs, Google, or other startups, has been important for Darnell. It’s a cherished aspect of his experience as a Park Scholar. “The best part of the Park Scholarships program was that it got me out of my computer science bubble and exposed me to a diverse group of incredibly smart people across all parts of the university.”

As the Park Scholarships program celebrates its 25th year, Park alumni like Darnell demonstrate the value of investing in remarkable students who repay that support many times over. Park Scholarships provides exceptional students opportunities to develop their outstanding potential in scholarship, leadership, service, and character. Please consider supporting future Park Scholars today.