PEMBROKE — Scott Benke is in charge of entertainment between innings at Midland Rockhounds’ home games in Texas.
He is also responsible for in-game promotions — skills he honed as a broadcasting student at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
More importantly, he credits the Gary Spitler Memorial Endowed Scholarship for his early success with the Oakland A’s minor league team.
A 2017 graduate, he worked with the UNCP Sports Network as a technical director, cameraman and color commentator. Benke was among several UNCP students who benefited from a record number of scholarships awarded in 2017.
In fact, last year was the first time in university history UNCP awarded $1 million in scholarships, professorships and other private support.
This is the largest monetary amount ever given from the endowment.
In addition to the strong support of alumni, friends, corporations and foundations, university leaders say a booming economy and a strong stock market helped break the $1 million threshold.
In 2017, UNCP awarded $471,571 in scholarships, $547,293 in professorships, and $42,382 in non-scholarship awards.
“A strong endowment is vital for UNC-Pembroke to provide our students with a high quality, life changing educational experience and to enhance our service to southeastern North Carolina,” said Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings.
“In an age when private support of higher education is increasingly important, scholarships and professorships give UNCP a competitive edge in increasing access for students and attracting and retaining top faculty.”
Scholarships help defray college expenses and allow students to focus on academics while also making the most of the college experience.
Korrinne Bethel was financially strapped after her freshman year and wasn’t sure if she would return for her sophomore year.
“I got a job and started applying for all the scholarships I could find,” she said. “I didn’t receive enough financial aid during my freshman year so my parents paid out of pocket.”
Bethel, a senior business major, said she was grateful when she was awarded UNCP’s 50th Class Reunion Gold Endowed Scholarship.
“I was very excited. To know that someone thought I belonged here … I was very appreciative.”
Endowments are also used to fund an endowed chair or professorship — the highest academic award that a university can bestow on a faculty member.
Endowed professorships enhance faculty positions and give UNCP an edge in attracting outstanding scholars like Dr. Susan Peters.
An accomplished academician, Peters is a former professor and director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Francis Marion University. She joined the UNCP faculty in 2017 after being awarded the Thomas Family Center Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship.
The professorship includes a competitive salary as well as a research and travel stipend. The position has allowed Peters to gain more knowledge about the advances in entrepreneurship and economic growth in the region.
“I have used this funding to attend local and national meetings and conferences to keep abreast of new ideas and to help expand the boundaries of entrepreneurship research,” she said.
Junior Phil Locklear Jr. said being selected for the Stacy Ryan Locklear Air Force ROTC Endowed Scholarship instilled the self-confidence he needed during his transition to college.
“I was selected out of a few other cadets that were very competitive for this scholarship — but they chose me. That definitely made me feel better about myself and my studies, and I should keep it up,” he said.
Locklear also received the Gen. Allen Jamerson Scholarship for Aerospace Excellence.
Cummings added, “While the growth in our endowment proceeds is reason to celebrate, we cannot rest on our laurels. In order to achieve our bold vision for UNCP, we must continue to raise our expectations when it comes to giving.
“Alumni, friends, corporations and foundations understand the critical role UNCP plays in this region of the state. They take pride in our institution and trust us to use their gifts wisely.
“As a university, we must harness this goodwill to advance our mission.”