Although they live more than 1,000 miles apart, and their time as UNC students is separated by more than 30 years, Alumnus Richard Smith, BS ’81, and Sophomore Darren DeLaCroix have more in common than meets the eye.
Smith, a 1981 graduate of the UNC Kenneth W. Monfort College of Business, went on to lead a very successful career as a small business owner. 31-years later, he’s now retired in Kirkland, Wash. and hopes to help other Bears achieve their dreams. That’s why he and his wife Laura, decided to establish the Romans 12:3-8 Scholarship last spring.
“We thought it would be a good thing to give back to UNC,” says Smith. “I think it’s a nice opportunity to give someone a chance because I think that’s what everybody needs. Just a chance to get the education, go to school, and when they get out of school, to have the tools they need to succeed.”
It just so happens the first ever recipient of the scholarship is also a business major who attended the very same high school as Smith: Greeley West.
“Kind of crazy!” remarks Smith, “It’s unbelievable to have the first scholarship go to a person who went to the same school, played football there like I did, then turned around and is going to the business school. I mean that is just really cool.”
Darren DeLaCroix is a Sophomore business management major and wide receiver for the UNC football team. He was surprised to learn the donor who’s helping make his dreams a reality walked a similar path decades ago.
“I think it’s great because, if anything, it means so much more that he knows kind of where I came from, he knows the community, what it takes, all that stuff. For me to be from the same area as him, I think that’s special. To me it means something,” says DeLaCroix.
As a busy student athlete, juggling school, practice, games and work can be a difficult feat. Smith hopes this scholarship will not only help alleviate some of that stress, but also help fellow Bears studying Business find their calling.
“I hope that they continue in the business school. That they do the work and that they find their passion in that, and I would tell them that no matter what you do with that education that you’re getting from the business school, you can go any direction when you get out of school,” Smith says. “I just hope that they find their passion through all that because I was fortunate enough to do that and it was great.”
DeLaCroix is still in the process of finding his passion, but with Smith’s generous gift and support, he feels empowered to achieve anything.
“It’s going to make a huge impact. I couldn’t tell you right now what I want to do for my career, but the opportunity they’ve given me puts me in a good spot and allows me to get a good education and that’s big for me. I’m really excited about it,” says DeLaCroix.