SOE News

School of Education scholarship donor and recipient provide inspiration at Carolina’s annual celebration

Photo from Eaves Scholarship dinner

(l to r) Eaves Scholar Joshua Rudisill, N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue, Eaves Scholar Holly Travis, Bob Eaves. Elementary Education major Jennifer Knox also received an Eaves Scholarship this year but was unable to attend the dinner.
Photo courtesy of Carolina Development

School of Education scholarship donor, Robert W. Eaves, Jr. (B.S.B.A. ’58), and recipient, Joshua Rudisill, a student in the teacher education program, were the featured speakers at the University’s annual Undergraduate Scholarship Dinner at the Carolina Inn on April 14, 2009. The dinner celebrated the University’s benefactors who have supported Carolina students by providing student scholarships.

Eaves─a businessman who was on hand with his wife, N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue, herself a former teacher─told the audience about the Robert Wendell Eaves, Sr. Scholarship. Established at the School of Education in 1981 by Eaves’ mother, the scholarship honors his father, a lifelong educator. Eaves, Sr. was a teacher, principal and longtime leader of the National Education Association’s Department of Elementary School Principals.

Rudisill─one of this year’s Eaves Scholars─also spoke, sharing his passion for education. A Middle Grades major, Rudisill enrolled at Carolina as a junior, with financial help from the Eaves Scholarship. He completed his first two years of undergraduate study at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory.

“The remarks made by both Bob and Josh at the annual scholarship dinner were quite inspirational,” said Wendy Gratz Borman, assistant dean for external relations at the School of Education. “It was gratifying for the University-wide audience of nearly 250 people to hear about their experiences and their commitment to education.”

The need-based Eaves Scholarship is given each year to one or more outstanding undergraduate students who are pursuing a degree in education. More than 50 students at the School of Education have benefited from this scholarship.

“It was important to my family that the best students in North Carolina have the opportunity to come to UNC, no matter their financial situation,” said Eaves in his remarks. “I am so pleased that my dad’s legacy lives on through these UNC scholarship recipients.”

The legacy of Robert Eaves, Sr. began on a farm in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. “Until he was 17 and finally graduated eighth grade, [my dad’s] only opportunity for education was in a one-room school, open about four months a year because of farm schedules, flu epidemics and other difficulties,” Eaves told the group. “Over the next 22 months he walked, rode a mule or his bicycle five miles to high school.”

Because he didn’t have enough money to pay for college, Bob Eaves., Sr. worked his way through Carolina by teaching and other jobs. After earning his degree in education, he began a career in education that would span 44 years.

“Despite all of his professional achievements, I know my dad always believed that his greatest success was helping young people,” Eaves remarked. “When my mother created this scholarship, she wanted the memory of my father to live on through those education students who, just like him, were passionate about education and instilling that same passion in students.” 

Scholarship recipient Joshua Rudisill embodies that passion and commitment. “When starting at UNC I knew I was not a traditional student,” he said. “It took me several years to realize exactly what I wanted to do with my life after high school.”

While trying different careers, Rudisill volunteered at a Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club, an opportunity that later turned into a position as the director of education.

“At first the students [there] were a bit leery of me,” explained Rudisill, who found himself in the minority in that setting. “The students and I had no idea what to expect from each other. There were a few days when I thought I’d never go back, but after the children began to trust me, we always had a blast. Each and every child there had so much potential but was burdened with the fact that they came from homes with extremely low incomes. Building relationships was easy to do with these students. Investing in their futures was tantamount.”

That experience was the first of several that led Rudisill to a career in education. “When I think about the future of our society, I know that investing in our youth is of the utmost importance,” he said. “And so do our scholarship donors.”

In closing, Rudisill encouraged the audience to follow their dreams. “So I leave you tonight with a quote that has brought me along the way,” he said. “Trust that little voice in your head that says, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if …’ and DO IT.”

To learn more about the Eaves Scholarship or funding your own scholarship at the School of Education, contact Assistant Dean Wendy Gratz Borman at wendy_borman@unc.edu or (919) 843-4536.