Peppers Donates $100,000 to Scholarship Fund

Julius Peppers '02.

Julius Peppers

Former UNC football star Julius Peppers ’02 has donated $100,000 to a General Alumni Association scholarship program that supports African-American students.

The Light on the Hill Society Scholarship, a tribute to Carolina’s earliest black graduates, is a vehicle for alumni and friends to support black freshmen who exhibit academic excellence and the potential to contribute while at Carolina and after graduation.

“I am happy to support the Light on the Hill Scholarship,” said Peppers. “For a number of years, I have been thinking about how I could give something back to the University. Helping young people achieve their dream is a personal priority for me. Giving to this particular effort is my attempt to assist and reward some of our best and brightest students.”

Peppers, who also lettered in basketball at Carolina, was a key contributor to the Tar Heels’ reaching the 2000 Final Four. In football, he starred as a defensive end and won the Lombardi Award, given to the country’s top college lineman. He was a unanimous All-American in 2001.

Peppers was picked No. 2 overall in the 2002 NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers. He has played in four Pro Bowls and will appear in the 2009 Pro Bowl Sunday.

The Light on the Hill Society that oversees the scholarship program is part of the Black Alumni Reunion, one of the alumni association’s largest groups. Richard “Stick” Williams ’75, chair of the Light on the Hill board, said Peppers’ gift “epitomizes the man that Julius has grown to be.

“In his very quiet way, he has reached out on a number of occasions to encourage the growth and engagement of young people,” Williams said. “Serving the community and giving back is very important to him – this gift to the Light on the Hill Scholarship proves just that.”

The scholarship name was inspired by the University’s motto, light and liberty.

Robyn Hadley ’85, co-chair of the scholarship committee, said that in 2005, Peppers sponsored an enrichment program for middle school and high school boys from the Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham and Chatham County schools as part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the Black Alumni Reunion.

“He wanted these young men to understand what a college education and UNC had done for him and what it could offer them,” Hadley said. “That was my first glimpse of his strong but quiet commitment to giving back to UNC and the community at large. Julius’ gift serves as a shining example of the dedication and commitment members of the Carolina family have for the University.”

The Light on the Hill Scholarship effort began at the 2005 Black Alumni Reunion. Organizers challenged alumni to contribute $1,952 each – representing the 1952 class year of Harvey Beech, UNC’s first black graduate – to become founding members of the scholarship fund. Since then, more than 200 Carolina alumni and friends have made tax-deductible gifts to the fund, ranging from a few dollars to several thousand.

As the Light on the Hill fund has grown, so has the number of scholarships. The program awarded its first two $1,000 nonrenewable scholarships in 2007. At the annual scholarship banquet in November, the Light on the Hill selection committee chose four recipients from more than 100 applicants. Organizers hope to award a full scholarship eventually.

Among other alumni association scholarship efforts are:

  • Annual GAA Scholars, established in 2001, giving preference to children of alumni based on academic credentials, SAT scores and extracurricular activities. In 2007, the Douglas S. Dibbert Scholar designation, in honor of the current association president, Doug Dibbert ’70, was added to the top GAA Scholars based on their school performance and SAT scores.
  • The J. Maryon “Spike” Saunders Scholarship, established in 1995 in honor of the late longtime leader of the association, who was a member of the class of 1925 and died in March 1995.
  • Scholarships supported through fundraising by association alumni clubs around the country.

Recipients of scholarships from those association efforts are chosen by UNC’s Office of Scholarships and Student Aid. The alumni association programs are in addition to programs created from fundraising by UNC’s Office of University Development for student scholarships.

“For generations our alumni have given back to Carolina,” Dibbert said. “For many, their generosity was prompted by the fact that their own Carolina experience was made possible by the scholarship support they themselves received. We are most grateful for Julius Peppers’ wonderfully thoughtful gift. His generosity not only will provide educational opportunities to many future Tar Heels, but also will inspire others to join him in helping grow the Light on the Hill Society Scholarship.”

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