Dennis and Joan Gillings, whose $50 million wowed the School of Public Health
in 2007. “It’s a transformative event. The
day before this happened and every day
after are going to be different days,” said
Barbara Rimer, the school’s dean. “The
possibilities are almost limitless. And the
Gillingses gave this gift because they
wanted something to happen.”
Alumni account for 36 percent of the
campaign total, and this is a higher percentage than for most of UNC’s peer universities.
When Alisa Eanes says, “It was so
much more than I expected,” she’s speaking for Shirley Ort, too. Ort, the director
made a splash
it never rested.
took it toward
of scholarships and student aid who conceived the Carolina Covenant, did not
anticipate the program would be such a
strong magnet for private money.
The first class of Covenant students will
graduate in May with no loan debts to
pay. The nationally recognized program
combines grants, scholarships and the federal work-study program to open UNC to
more students from low-income families.
The program started in 2004 with 224
students whose families were at or below
150 percent of the federal poverty level.
Eanes, a junior transfer from UNC-Wilmington who will take an extra semester to complete a double major in women’s
studies and psychology and a minor in
chemistry, has been financially independent
since she was 17 — but when she applied
to Carolina, she knew she’d have a hard
time paying for it. She was accepted and was
notified that she qualified for the Covenant.
Her commitment to work 10 to 12
hours a week on campus took her to the
OB-GYN office at UNC Hospitals. Eanes
is aiming for medical school, hoping to
work in an area of women’s health; her
job has enabled her to watch surgeries
and shadow doctors, and she has become
involved in research on women’s health
issues apart from her academic studies.
She was in the first class of Covenant
transfer students, and right away she
noticed that transfers weren’t getting as
much attention as freshmen. “There wasn’t
anything in place to help transfers, and I
had a hard time at first.”
Juniors with two years behind them at
Carolina had established their social circles
and were bearing down on their majors,
and it was harder for transfers to break in;
transfers had low priority for housing and
often were placed with freshmen on
South Campus; advising for transfers was
Eanes and some other students started
Tar Heel Transfers, which established a
mentoring program for transfers. They
worked with various campus offices to
ease the transition. “The overall morale of
transfer students, there’s been a huge difference last year to this year,” she said.
As Eanes moves toward graduation, the
Covenant is expanding.
“I knew there was a strong level of
support here in the University,” Ort said.
“But I just really underestimated the outpouring of private gifts.”
The University decided to go for a
permanent endowment and launched a
$10 million campaign. With Roy ’ 72 and
Wanda Williams as honorary chairs, and in
for $100,000 themselves, “it made raising
$10 million for it almost easy,” said Elizabeth Dunn ’ 85 (PhD), senior associate vice
chancellor for University advancement.
The program was broadened after its
first year to take in students from families
at or below 200 percent of the poverty
level. Faculty and staff mentoring was
beefed up with peer mentoring from continuing Covenant students. Seminars were
set up for study habits and other academic
support, and career guidance. The University made sure the students were taking