Park Scholarships Program Celebrates 10 Co-Named Endowments

Author: Amy Rossi

Adelaide Gomer, center, celebrated her Menscer Cup honor with the first four co-named scholarship donors in 2018. From left: Diane Cunningham, Jerry Cunningham, Nancy Ridenhour, Mimi Cunningham, Tom Cunningham, Gomer, Mark Cagley, Linda Cagley and Lauren Cagley.

Since its creation in 1996, NC State’s Park Scholarships program has celebrated numerous achievements — and that’s before one takes into account the individual accomplishments of each scholar. 

The longevity of the program means it has marked fifth, 10th and 25th anniversaries. The Krispy Kreme Challenge, established by Park Scholars in 2004, has raised $2 million for UNC Children’s Hospital — while growing into a national phenomenon. Service Raleigh, also co-created by Park Scholars, is honoring its 25th year in 2022.

Now the program is celebrating one more exciting milestone: the creation of 10 co-named Park Scholarships.

When the program was created, the Park Foundation provided generous annual grants to fund the scholarships and additional benefits each year. In 2013, motivated by the incredible impact of the Park Scholars, the foundation launched a $50 million commitment — the largest gift in NC State history at the time — that sparked an effort to fully endow the program. With others’ support, this will grow to provide the Park Scholarships program with the resources needed for every class of Park Scholars for decades to come.

This milestone gift has proven a remarkable investment in students and their potential in scholarship, leadership, service and character. It also has been an inspiration to the greater Park Scholarships community.

“With its generous $50 million endowment gift, the Park Foundation challenged our community to join them in bringing future classes of Park Scholars to NC State. It is inspiring to see program alumni, parents, faculty and friends rise to support future Park Scholars,” said Eva Feucht ’02, alumna and director of the program.

The increase in co-named Park Scholarships reflects the growing culture of philanthropy at NC State as an institution.

“Ten years ago, we were not fundraising for the Park Scholarships. We relied on the Park Foundation’s support to cover each class. With their landmark gift, they sparked a movement to fully endow the Park Scholarships program so that Park Scholars will forever call NC State home,” Feucht said.

The Park Scholarships program is named for the late Roy H. Park ’31, an NC State alumnus who created the Park Foundation to support education, public broadcasting and the environment, among other interests. To date, 23 classes of Park Scholars have graduated, building a vibrant alumni network of more than 1,000 scholars.

Park Scholarships Class of 2026 Group Photo
The Park Scholarships program’s class of 2026

“[My father, Roy Park,] wanted to pave the way for other bright students to experience what he had. This scholarship program was a way his legacy could pay it forward to assist future generations. And he saw scholarships as a gift that keeps on giving,” Adelaide Gomer, president of the Park Foundation, said in a 2020 interview.

A Community Effort

Each year, a new class of approximately 40 Park Scholars enters NC State. Support from the Park Scholarships program includes tuition and fees, room and board, books, a personal computer, and travel and personal expenses, as well as enrichment grants for research projects, service activities and conference participation. 

While the program works to grow its endowment to completely cover these expenses, the Park Foundation continues to provide generous funding. Donor support that builds on that of the foundation is vitally important to the program’s continued success, ensuring resources are available for current and future students to take full advantage of these extraordinary opportunities, regardless of any changes in housing, book, fee or travel costs. 

Co-named Park Scholarships provide sustained funding for half of the total cost of one Park Scholar; the Park Foundation provides the other half. The scholarship is awarded every four years to one scholar, and donors at this level may name their scholarship in whatever way is most meaningful. Donors also have flexibility in terms of how they fund their scholarships: Commitments can be fulfilled over a period of up to five years, through cash gifts or gifts of assets such as stocks or real estate, and they can also be funded through a planned gift.

“Our mission is to bring talented students to NC State and to prepare Park Scholars for a lifetime of impact. We cannot do this without support. I am inspired by the Park community’s generosity in helping us build our endowment,” Feucht said.

“Donors at all levels have answered this call. These 10 donors in particular have made a commitment to secure permanent scholarships for future students. We are truly grateful.”

Learn more about what each donor had to say about their choice to establish a co-named scholarship, from the first commitment to the most recent.

Meet the Donors

Jerry and Diane Cunningham — Class of 2014 parents

“Higher education was not on our giving radar until our daughter became a Park Scholar in 2010. We’re proud to have been the first to endow a scholarship for this wonderful program, and we are inspired by those who have followed.”

Nancy Ridenhour ’76 — Park Scholarships Selection Committee member and regional leader

“As a grateful NC State alumna, I support the Park Scholarships program because it provides driven students the opportunity to experience NC State’s exceptional classrooms, attend enriching events and engage with people from around the world.”

Lauren ‘13, Linda and Mark Cagley — Park Scholar and family

“Creating the endowment was a family decision. As a Park Scholar, Lauren (class of 2013) was the recipient of great generosity in addition to great opportunity. As we thought about the wonderful gift that the Park program had given our family and considered what we had saved for college, we began our giving in support of the Park Scholarships program while Lauren was at NC State. Later, as the Park Scholarships funding needs changed and as we better realized the lifelong impact of being a Park Scholar, we decided to increase our commitment with a co-named scholarship to help preserve and strengthen the program for the future.”

Tom ’71 and Mimi Cunningham — Park Scholarships Selection Committee member and regional leader

“During the 25 years I served on the Park Scholarships Selection Committee, I met many outstanding students. I am friends with many alumni I never would have met otherwise and I still keep in touch with the parents of students I met over the years. And while everyone knows how great the students are, I have also enjoyed interacting with the talented and dedicated team that runs the Park Scholarships program. When we learned that there was an opportunity for the greater Park community to support the future of the program, it was a no-brainer for Mimi and me to step up and create an endowment, and then to create a planned gift to co-name a Park Scholar. Being involved with the Park Scholarships program has transformed my philanthropy at NC State.”

Anonymous faculty mentor 

“My wife’s and my various interactions with Park Scholars have been one of the most rewarding aspects of my tenure as a faculty member. Getting to know and help nurture young people of excellent character who excel in scholarship, leadership and service, and who possess outstanding potential to make a positive impact in the local and global communities, has been inspiring. The opportunities for professional and personal growth through the Park Scholarships program are unmatched by most scholarship programs. We choose to initiate a named Park Scholarship as a planned gift that will honor in perpetuity our family members who struggled to make it possible for us to attain many of our dreams, while helping to ensure the continued success of the program.”

Kyle ’09 and Molly Held — Park Scholar and family

“The Park Scholarship enriches my daily life still, though it’s been more than 15 years since the program first brought me to NC State. Park Scholars and alumni continue to challenge me, support me with opportunities to learn and grow, and are counted among my dearest friends and mentors. I’m honored to be part of the Park Scholarships family and hope our gifts help others share in this legacy.”

Ben Darnell ’02 — Park Scholar

“I’m a big believer in public education and it’s important that public universities be world-class. Programs like the Park Scholarships help attract and support top students while integrating them into the university as a whole.” 

Ricky ’02 and Kimberly ’02 Bloomfield — Park Scholars

“Giving back to the program has always been a priority for our family, and we see it as a natural step to ensure that future generations of students can benefit from the incredible opportunities afforded by the Park Scholarship and NC State. We are grateful for the wonderful experiences and growth we had as a part of the Park Scholarships community at NC State. Over our many years of involvement with the program, we’ve seen Park Scholars continue to exemplify scholarship, leadership, service and character well beyond graduation.”

Brent Bumgarner — Parent of a Park Scholar, Selection Committee leader

“The Park Scholarship is one of the very best merit-based full scholarship programs in the country and it enhances the value of all NC State degrees, past and present. I am very proud to provide this opportunity for students in the future. Attracting more talented students to campus via the Park Scholarships program is not only great for the university but also for the state, since many graduates will continue to call North Carolina home as they make amazing contributions throughout their careers.”

Anonymous Park parents

“We wanted to support the Park Scholarships program because it brings together students from all over the country who have values in common, but who bring a variety of different skills, interests and backgrounds. It was great for our daughter especially during the pandemic because it gave her a core group of friends that she had met virtually before school even started, and they will probably always be friends. The Park Scholars are all very gifted and motivated, and Park builds upon this and expands their minds through the different seminars and experiences. It also creates a network for them of previous Park Scholars and their peers that will last a lifetime.”

Building on a Legacy

These donors’ support has already created an impact within the Park Scholarships program. In May 2022, Noor Shehata and Emily Ostermann graduated from NC State as the two first co-named Park Scholarship recipients. Shehata received the Kris-Kel Park Scholarship, and Ostermann received the Cagley Family Park Scholarship.

Noor Shehata posing between Diane and Jerry Cunningham
Noor Sheheta ’22, center, was one of the first scholars to receive support from a co-named endowment, thanks to Diane and Jerry Cunningham.

Park Scholars from across the country arrive at NC State knowing that an incredible investment has been made in their educational futures, and the growing co-named scholarships make the importance of philanthropy all the more clear.

“The co-named Park Scholarships inspire current Park Scholars to join the culture of giving that Park alumni have created. Seeing Park alumni reinvest in the Park Scholarships program shows the faith they have in the value and strength of the Park community, and pushes the Park Philanthropy Council to expand our outreach in the upcoming years as well,” said Keya Pothireddy ’23, who serves as a leader on the council. 

On the fourth annual NC State Day of Giving in March, every class of Park Scholars, from the first graduates in 2000 to the class of 2025, made gifts to support the program. Starting with the first NC State Day of Giving in 2019, the program has received more than 2,100 gifts in total during these 24-hour giving campaigns, including more than $150,000 raised to support the One Park One Pack: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Fund. That fund was established in 2020 and reflects both the core tenets of the program and its continued commitment to evolving to better prepare students for a life of leadership and impact.

New initiatives like Day of Giving and One Park One Pack, along with the investment of co-named scholarships, build on strong scaffolding to create an even bolder, brighter future for the program, and Feucht hopes donors know the key role they are playing.

“Your gift commitment supports future generations of Park Scholars as they lead, learn and serve. Investments like yours help us bring exceptional students to NC State and, through a robust series of programming, prepare Park Scholars to make lasting contributions to our university, state, nation and world,” she said.

In 2018, while receiving the Menscer Cup — the NC State University Foundation’s highest honor in recognition of philanthropy — on behalf of the Park Foundation, Gomer shared, “It is profoundly meaningful for all of us at the Park Foundation to participate in this remarkable program and the journey of each Park Scholar. I know that my father’s greatest hope would be that every Park Scholar will, in their own way, replicate what my father did: work hard, do well and give back.” 

The first 10 co-named Park Scholarships show that this legacy extends to parents, faculty and community members as well — and that it will continue to grow stronger.

Originally published in Giving News