Gift will create scholarships at Appalachian State

jstancill@newsobserver.comMarch 21, 2013 

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina President and CEO Brad Wilson and his wife, Carole, have pledged $3 million to their alma mater, Appalachian State University, for a new merit scholarship program.

On Friday, the university will honor the Raleigh couple by naming an honors dorm complex the Brad and Carole Wilson Honors and Engagement Community.

The couple’s donation will be used to establish the Wilson Scholars Program, which will begin awarding scholarships in 2014-15, with an initial class of six to eight students.

The university will continue to raise money for the program to increase the number of scholarships as time goes on, Brad Wilson said in an interview Thursday.

“We’re just glad we’re in a position to do a little something,” he said. “I’m confident that with the school’s commitment, over time it will help a lot of folks in perpetuity.”

The program is envisioned as the signature merit scholarship program at ASU, akin to the Morehead-Cain Scholarship at UNC-Chapel Hill and the Park Scholarship at N.C. State University. Besides full financial support for education, student winners will be exposed to special seminars and international study during their summers. They will be encouraged to participate in service-learning and civic engagement, and they’ll produce a final project at the end of their academic journey.

The Wilsons’ pledge marks the largest gift to ASU by alumni. It counts toward the multiyear Campaign for Appalachian, which aims to raise $200 million by the end of next year. So far, the university has received $153 million in pledges and donations.

The Wilsons both graduated from ASU in 1975 and are co-chairs of the current fundraising campaign. He is a member and former chairman of the UNC Board of Governors.

They both attended high school in Raleigh – he at Millbrook High and she at Sanderson High – but didn’t meet until they were undergraduates at Appalachian, where they were history majors.

Brad Wilson, the first in his family to get a college degree, went on to earn a law degree at Wake Forest University. Carole Wilson, who received a teacher scholarship loan when she was at Appalachian, became a teacher. They have a grown son and daughter.

Scholarship recipients will be chosen not just on the basis of top academic performance, but also for leadership, strength of character and wellness. Those who want to use their talents for teaching will be strongly considered, he said.

Brad Wilson said he hopes the program will help Appalachian recruit some of the best and brightest students and provide them with a rich and robust education.

“The idea here is they can graduate debt free, and that will be a liberating component,” he said. “We think there’s magic in that formula.”

Stancill: 919-829-4559

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