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Of the estimated 4,625 Carolina students who were awarded degrees during Commencement ceremonies in May, 12 new alumni brought to a close one of the most distinctive educational experiences in America.
Members of the University’s first class of Robertson Scholars turned their tassels, ending a four-year education that saw them live and take classes at both UNC and Duke.
“I think they’ve probably had the most unique undergrad experience in America,” said Eric Mlyn, director of the Robertson Scholars Program.
The program was founded in 2000 when New York investment manager Julian H. Robertson Jr. ’55 and his wife, Josephine Tucker Robertson, who served on UNC’s Board of Visitors, made a $24 million endowment.
The four-year scholarship was designed to promote interaction between the student bodies of both universities and to link classroom learning with community service, Julian Robertson said at the time of the gift’s announcement in 2000.
Thirty incoming freshmen were selected in 2001 to participate in the program’s first class. Of those, 15 matriculated at Carolina, 15 at Duke. Three UNC scholars did not complete the program.
The students were required to take courses at both universities and spend the second semester of their sophomore year living on the opposite campus. They also were given stipends during the summers that enabled them to participate in community service and research both in the Southeast and abroad.
There is no application process for the scholarship – admissions officers from each school recommend potential scholars to the program.
Nearly half of UNC’s graduating Robertson Scholars will be leaving the United States to continue their commitment to service, while others will be attending graduate school or starting jobs.
“One of the more interesting things you’ll see is the diversity of things our graduates have gone on to do,” Mlyn said. “Robertson Scholars come in all shapes and sizes . and they’ve gone on to programs at Yale, in South Africa and everything in between.”
And though Mlyn said “a good deal” of the initial endowment remains, more funding for the program is on the way. “We are continuing to spend the initial gift. But the Robertson Foundation has committed to funding the program in the future.”