Feb 6, 2009
Former North Carolina football star Julius Peppers has donated $100,000 to a UNC General Alumni Association scholarship program that supports African-American students, the school announced Friday.
The Light on the Hill Society Scholarship, a tribute to Carolina’s earliest black graduates, is a vehicle for alumni and friends to support black freshmen who exhibit academic excellence and the potential to contribute while at Carolina and after graduation.
“I am happy to support the Light on the Hill Scholarship,” Peppers said in a statement. “For a number of years, I have been thinking about how I could give something back to the university. Helping young people achieve their dream is a personal priority for me. Giving to this particular effort is my attempt to assist and reward some of our best and brightest students.”
Peppers, who also lettered in basketball at Carolina, was a key contributor to the Tar Heels’ reaching the 2000 Final Four. In football, he starred as a defensive end and won the Lombardi Award, given to the country’s top college lineman. He was a unanimous All-American in 2001.
Peppers was picked No. 2 overall in the 2002 NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers. He has played in four Pro Bowls and is now a free agent. Peppers has indicated he would like to play with another team next season, but the Panthers could put the franchise tag on him.
The Light on the Hill Society that oversees the scholarship program is part of the Black Alumni Reunion, one of the alumni association’s largest groups. Richard “Stick” Williams, chair of the Light on the Hill board, said Peppers’ gift “epitomizes the man that Julius has grown to be.
“In his very quiet way, he has reached out on a number of occasions to encourage the growth and engagement of young people,” Williams said. “Serving the community and giving back is very important to him – this gift to the Light on the Hill Scholarship proves just that."
The Light on the Hill Scholarship effort began at the 2005 Black Alumni Reunion. Organizers challenged alumni to contribute $1,952 each – representing the 1952 class year of Harvey Beech, UNC’s first black graduate – to become founding members of the scholarship fund. Since then, more than 200 Carolina alumni and friends have made tax-deductible gifts to the fund, ranging from a few dollars to several thousand, UNC said in a release.
As the Light on the Hill fund has grown, so has the number of scholarships. The program awarded its first two $1,000 nonrenewable scholarships in 2007. At the annual scholarship banquet in November, the Light on the Hill selection committee chose four recipients from more than 100 applicants. Organizers hope to award a full scholarship eventually.