By Paul Nowell
We all have those occasions when the light bulb turns on over our head. A perplexing problem is finally answered or a solution to a dilemma suddenly surfaces. Yet few of us will ever have the chance to change the course of a university’s history based on one of these “Eureka!” moments.
On this occasion, it was a rather serendipitous conversation that inspired philanthropist Leon Levine’s brainstorm. While waiting for his doctor, he observed a certificate hanging on the wall that recognized Dr. Michael Richardson as a Morehead Scholar at UNC Chapel Hill.
Curious, Levine asked his physician about the impact the scholarship had on his life.
Without hesitation, Richardson replied it was the single most important achievement in his life. Those words resonated with Levine, who has used his considerable fortune to improve the lives of thousands of people in Charlotte and the surrounding region.
The Leon Levine Foundation has contributed millions to improve the lives of children, the needy and many other worthy causes. In this case, Levine and his wife, Sandra, wanted to provide scholarships to bright high school students so they could become the next generation of “ethical leaders” in Charlotte.
On Wednesday, UNC Charlotte introduced the first class of 15 Levine Scholars, including 10 high school seniors from North Carolina and five from other states. The scholarship covers the cost of all tuition and fees, housing and meals, books, a laptop computer and summer experiences. Additional funding is provided to support community service work during the academic years.
The value of the scholarship is about $90,000 for each in-state student and $140,000 for each out-of-state student. It’s no surprise the selection process was rigorous and extremely competitive. More than 1,000 high school seniors from 25 states were nominated by their schools.
In an interview with the Charlotte Observer, the Levines said they wanted to raise the academic standing of UNC Charlotte and bring in talented and committed students who would choose to live and work in Charlotte.
You know, just like Dr. Michael Richardson.
Based on the resumes of two of the Levine Scholars, there’s good reason to be hopeful.
Evan Danchenka, of nearby Harrisburg, has already volunteered on the effort to build the Carolina Thread Trail that will link 15 North Carolina counties in one walking trail. He'll continue that work as an undergrad at UNC Charlotte.
Celia Karp, of Bethesda, Md., was attracted to the public service requirement in the Levine Scholars Program. While still in high school, she has served food to the homeless, raised money for breast cancer research and worked with children with terminal illnesses.
Paul Nowell is media relations manager in the Office of Public Relations