Roy Williams is an iconic figure for UNC students, alumni and fans.
Although he is most recognized for his record 903 wins, three NCAA Tournament championships and 18 years spent as head coach of the Tar Heels’ Men’s basketball team, Coach Williams was also once a student at UNC. Because of his longtime relationship with the University, Williams and his wife, Wanda, recently donated $3 million to scholarship programs supporting UNC students.
In addition to donating $600,000 last spring to financially support senior athletes through another year at the University, as the pandemic cut the spring season short, the Williams gave another large sum for all students.
On behalf of the University, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz thanked the Williams for their scholarship donation in a statement.
“With this extremely generous and timely contribution to three areas of scholarships, they are going above and beyond to provide opportunities for our students," Guskiewicz said in the statement.
The scholarship donation specifically benefits the Carolina Covenant, as well as the Chancellor’s Science Scholars program. The third area of the donation endows a scholarship to the thirteenth man on Coach Williams’ team, an idea that he credits to his wife, Wanda Williams.
“She usually comes up with better ideas than I do anyway,” Williams said in an interview with UNC Media Relations. “Doing something to endow scholarships for the University of North Carolina’s Athletics Department is something that was important to us.”
Two million of the donation will positively impact the Chancellor’s Science Scholars program and the Carolina Covenant, two programs for exemplary students.
One of these students is Ecclesiastes Barnes, who is both a Chancellor’s Science Scholar and a Carolina Covenant student. Barnes shared her reaction to the donation, praising what she called "Carolina’s First Family."
“It really felt good to see that they really cared about us and I was just really happy and grateful to see that,” she said.
Kira Griffith, another student in the Chancellor’s Science Scholars Program, said she felt “a big feeling of celebration because our program is very meaningful and impactful part of the UNC community, especially for minority students and black students.”
Griffith commends the program for creating new opportunities for students, as she believes it makes UNC a more inclusive institution for students outside of the norm. She said some community members outside the norm include out-of-state students, as well as students from different socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. She, herself, is from the U.S. Virgin Islands.
As an out-of-state student, Griffith said she hopes the Williams' donation will allow more students to gain scholarships to come to UNC who deserve it.
With financial help from the Chancellor’s Science Scholars Program, Griffith said she was excited for the opportunity to work with cohorts and a supportive UNC program.
Barnes also hopes that the donation will allow a greater number of resources to help students feel like they have a home within their program and the greater Carolina community. Specifically, she hopes the Chancellor’s Science Scholars Program will expand the number of full-ride scholarships offered by the University and hopes the program can create larger cohorts.
“If a person is willing to invest this much into our program, it shows its potential for success if students stay the course," Barnes said.
Looking ahead, Roy and Wanda Williams hope their donation will have a positive impact on many future generations of Tar Heels.
Specifically, Coach Williams hopes the scholarship donation will provide a place for exemplary students to mature and have opportunities to succeed. He cited he and his wife’s love for UNC as the reason for making their large investment in the students.
“This University of North Carolina not only is home, but it’s a place in our hearts and it’s a place about the people," he said.
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