GAA Honors ESPN Anchor, Principal and Teacher

A sports journalist and two pioneers in elementary education recently received the GAA’s Distinguished Young Alumni Awards.

Stuart Scott ’87, Dacia Toll ’94 and Douglas McCurry ’94 were honored a at a dinner ceremony Sept. 30 for bringing credit to the University through their achievements.

Stuart Scott '87, left, Dacia Toll '94 and Douglas McCurry '94. (Photo by Amy Joseph)

Stuart Scott ’87, left, Dacia Toll ’94 and Douglas McCurry ’94. (Photo by Amy Joseph)

“Stuart Scott made his mark on the world of sports television by infusing his broadcasts with insight, pizzazz and a perspective on sports history and tradition far beyond his years,” said GAA President Doug Dibbert ’70.

As an ESPN anchor, Scott has interviewed the likes of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton, and he regularly returns to Chapel Hill to host the festivities for the opening night of basketball practice.

Scott majored in speech communications and radio, television and motion pictures at UNC.  He worked at WXYC campus radio as a news and sports reporter, and also played wide receiver and defensive back for Carolina’s club football team.

After working at local news networks in the Carolinas and Florida, Scott became one of the trailblazers for ESPN’s first spin-off, ESPN2. He hosted a weekly NFL preview show, a nightly NBA roundup and a college football show.

In 2001, Scott was invited to deliver the commencement address at UNC. In his speech, he encouraged graduates to appreciate the diversity of people at Carolina. “I know all of you want to do more than just get a job, go to grad school,” he told the students. “I know you want to make a difference.  Keep this in mind as you do that: Remember the different walks of life that you’ve seen here . Understand whatever is different from you is just that – it’s just different.”

As an undergraduate at UNC, Dacia Toll had a role in establishing the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History. For the past seven years, she has worked to address what she calls the civil rights issue of our time: equal academic achievement for minority children.

Toll studied political science and economics as a Morehead Scholar at UNC. From Chapel Hill, she went to Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship and then to law school at Yale. While working toward her law degree, Toll and some of her fellow students began making plans for a charter school that would help inner-city students achieve at extraordinarily high levels.

The result was Amistad Academy, a middle school located in New Haven, Conn. Since opening in 1999, Amistad has already helped hundreds of inner-city students – who, on average, enter the school two grade levels behind – perform as well or better than their suburban counterparts.

Toll, who is the director of the school and teaches there, told The Washington Post in an earlier interview, “To get these kids to learn, we have to get them to believe that it is cool to do well in school.”

When she is not in the classroom, Toll is busy establishing partnerships with businesses, lobbying lawmakers about changes in state funding to charter schools and meeting one-on-one with students and parents.

The work also includes Douglas McCurry, who also was recognized for his work founding Amistad, where he teaches. For McCurry, closing the achievement gap between inner-city and suburban students means sweating the small stuff.

Helping students succeed in school means paying attention to details, like insisting that students keep their uniform shirts tucked in and training them to pass out papers efficiently so that more classroom time can be spent learning.

“We fight the small battles so we don’t have to fight the big ones,” McCurry told The Post. “If you can stop them rolling their eyes at you, they’re not going to curse at you.”

McCurry was a Morehead Scholar at UNC and majored in history and journalism. He is passionate about the fight to provide equal educational opportunity for all students.

Two years ago, McCurry, Toll and other Amistad leaders founded Achievement First, a nonprofit group dedicated to replicating Amistad’s success in other communities. Toll serves as president and McCurry as superintendent of the organization.

Achievement First has already established an additional elementary and middle school in New Haven and three schools in Brooklyn, N.Y., based on the Amistad model. Two more schools are scheduled to open in Brooklyn next year.

The GAA award honors alumni ages 40 or younger whose achievements bring credit to the university. Past recipients of the award include Michael Jordan ’86, Mia Hamm ’94, Sallie Krawcheck ’87, Kaye Gibbons ’84 and Kevin Martin ’89.

View a complete list of past recipients.

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