By Claire Cusick, Office of University Development
Dean Smith, the son of public school teachers and the husband of a social worker, knew the importance of the fields of education and social work. The Dean E. Smith Opening Doors Fund creates opportunities for graduate students at UNC in both the School of Education and the School of Social Work.
Bill McDiarmid, dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor of Education, said he was thrilled and touched that the fund will support students at his school. “I was at Carolina when Dean Smith was first here during the late 1960s,” he said. “He became such a model for me and so many people on dealing with the injustices that were part of our society at the time. I still think of him as one of the really great educators at Carolina. I think coaches are educators, and Coach Smith in particular took seriously the responsibility to guide young men and develop them into folks who made society better. So when this became possible I thought it was a great tribute to him. And of course, it will be a wonderful thing for the school. It will enable us to capture some of the top talent that we have previously lost to other institutions.”
Sharon Thomas, assistant dean for recruitment, admissions and financial aid at the School of Social Work, also said she was thrilled. “It was so incredible to hear about this gift,” she said. “He continues to give to UNC, even in his passing, and it is such a great gift to our students. It’s an honor for me to be a part of it.”
Both schools receive applications from outstanding applicants with demonstrated financial need, and these applicants know that they are entering fields that don’t always pay lucrative salaries. But like Coach Smith, these graduates aim to make North Carolina—and the world—a better place.
Students will be honored and grateful also, Thomas said. “Each year at our scholarship banquet, we hear from scholarship recipients that it means more than just financial necessity for them to receive a scholarship. It gives them a boost to know that someone believes in them. And that’s what I felt, myself, when I heard about this gift. It means Dean Smith and the Smith family believe in us, in the work that we’re doing and they value our contribution. It means they want to invest in us.”
Both schools receive applications from outstanding applicants with demonstrated financial need, and these applicants know that they are entering fields that don’t always pay lucrative salaries. But like Coach Smith, these graduates aim to make North Carolina—and the world—a better place. “Our graduates do a whole variety of things —in school systems, institutions of higher learning, nonprofit and research organizations,” McDiarmid said. “Our graduates touch so many aspects of life in North Carolina, not just in schools, although that’s a very key point of contact and influence. They have impact through many different kinds of organizations. Our graduates leave us with the intention of making this a more just world.”
Thomas concurred. “It is humbling to realize the size of the impact that this gift will make,” she said. “There is so much need in the world, and this will help students attend our school, and then go out and make the world a better place.”