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Posted on Sep 27, 2013

Park Promise

With the largest single gift in university history, NC State is taking steps to ensure a viable future for a program that brings some of America’s brightest students to campus.

Chancellor Randy Woodson announced the $50 million donation from the Park Foundation on Sept. 27. The gift will plant the seed of an endowment that, with others’ support, will provide permanent funding for the university’s prestigious Park Scholarships.

The Park Scholarships program was created in 1996 through a generous gift from the Park Foundation, itself the creation of NC State alumnus Roy H. Park ’31. Park Scholars are selected on the basis of their outstanding accomplishments and potential in scholarship, leadership, service and character.

“Park Scholars repay the investment in their future many times over through their service to the community and efforts to solve the most pressing challenges of society,” Woodson said. “They do an exemplary job of carrying out NC State’s mission of creating economic, social and intellectual prosperity.”

Roughly 40 freshmen a year receive the Park Scholarship. Full funding for their education is only the beginning of what the scholarship provides.

More Than a Scholarship

In addition to paying for tuition, room and board, the Park Scholarship also supports the scholars’ development as thinkers, doers and leaders.

With Park Enrichment Grants, Park Scholars can do nearly anything they can imagine. Students have used grants to study abroad, work in medical internships in Nepal and do service work on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Park Scholars also participate in intensive research. Sophomore Mia de los Reyes, a physics and math major from Raleigh, is studying supernovas in a campus physics lab and working at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

She spent last summer interning at the Space Telescope and Science Institute in Baltimore, home of the Hubble telescope. That internship may yield a research publication, she said.

“That was really just amazing for me, and I learned a lot,” de los Reyes said.

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A Network of Achievers

Park Scholars are a diverse group. They come to NC State from across the country, and they go into nearly every academic field. The Park Class of 2013 included graduates from all nine of NC State’s bachelor’s degree-granting colleges.

Those students are part of a network that has a profound impact on campus. Park Scholars have occupied leadership positions in student government, student media and a wide range of other student organizations.

They’ve also provided significant service to their community. Park Scholars founded two of the largest student-run charity efforts in the Triangle: Service Raleigh, an annual day of service led jointly with Student Government, and the Krispy Kreme Challenge, which draws thousands of runners each year and has raised more than $500,000 for the North Carolina Children’s Hospital.

“The one thing that I value most about the Park Scholarships program is the community that I’m surrounded with,” said William Coe, a senior Park Scholar studying philosophy.

Park Scholars’ achievements don’t end at graduation. Park alumni have gone on to work for some of the world’s top companies, including Apple, Google, SAS, IBM, Cisco and GlaxoSmithKline. Those who continued their academic careers have earned Goldwater, Fulbright, Gates and Truman scholarships, and they’ve gone on to study at Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford and Ivy League schools.

No matter how far they travel, Park students and alumni are a tight-knit group. As a freshman trying to choose a faculty mentor, senior Lauren Caddick reached out to recent Park graduates for advice.

“I don’t think I’ve had an email come back as fast as those have since I’ve been at NC State,” the design major from Gastonia said. “They truly value each other, and they value the huge network of people that they build every year.

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A Transformational Gift

The founder of the charitable Park Foundation and the namesake of the Park Scholarship, Roy H. Park, was born in Dobson, N.C., in 1910. He graduated from high school at the age of 15 and enrolled in NC State, where he majored in journalism. Park began working as a reporter at Technician in his freshman year, and he eventually became the paper’s editor-in-chief.

After college, Park worked in public relations and advertising for agricultural associations. In 1949, he launched a business relationship with famed restaurant expert Duncan Hines. The first product of Hines-Park Foods was Duncan Hines Cake Mix, which helped start a revolution in food preparation. Procter & Gamble purchased the company in 1956, allowing Park to launch his second career: mass communications. Park Communications Inc. ultimately built or acquired 22 radio stations, 11 television stations, and 144 publications, 41 of which were daily newspapers.

In 1961, Park helped create the Chancellor’s Circle of donors at NC State, making the first donation of $1,000 himself. He also served as a trustee of the university from 1977 to 1985. NC State awarded Park the Watauga Medal in 1975, and in 1978 he received an honorary doctor of humanities degree from the university. In 1989 he received North Carolina’s highest civilian honor, the North Carolina Award. When Park died in 1993, he bequeathed more than 70 percent of his holdings to the foundation that bears his name.

“If my father were alive today, this would be one of the most exciting days of his life. He loved NC State and credited the university for his success,” said Park’s daughter, Adelaide P. Gomer, president of the Park Foundation. “My father perceived scholarships as a way to provide opportunities to young students. It was a way that his legacy could ‘pay it forward’ to assist future generations.”

See photos from the Sept. 27 gift announcement:

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