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News Release

For immediate use 

June 3, 2005 -- No. 270

UNC raising funds for scholarship memorializing
Wilmington freshman Harper Beall Williams

CHAPEL HILL – Nothing can replace a lost son. But honoring a son’s legacy by supporting what he cherished most can salvage hope from tragedy.

In that spirit, the family of Harper Beall Williams is raising money to establish a scholarship in his name at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Williams, a UNC freshman, died Dec. 29, 2004, in a car accident in Wilmington, N.C., his hometown. He was 19.

"It’s us putting our feet in his shoes and asking, ‘What would he do if he were here?’" said Bert Williams, Harper’s father and an investment broker with Wachovia Securities in Wilmington.

Williams called the family in which his son was raised a "Tar Heel born, Tar Heel bred family." Williams went to Carolina, as did his father. His wife, Melanie, also holds a Carolina degree. Their daughter, Ramsay, is an alumna, and their oldest son, Tram, an alumnus, having graduated in May.

With that background, Harper was bound and determined to carry on the tradition, according to his Dad. "All his life, he prepared to go to college in only one place – Chapel Hill."

The family held a big celebration the day Harper received his acceptance letter from Carolina. And, once he arrived in Chapel Hill, he found himself right at home, Williams said.

"We had taken him to the campus since he could remember, and so getting oriented to the new location was simple for him," Williams said. "He made it, and he gained a lot by being in Chapel Hill."

Harper achieved his "lifelong dream" by getting into Carolina, Williams said, and his level of personal satisfaction rose even higher when he arrived on campus and was welcomed by a wide range of students. He joined Phi Gamma Delta, the same fraternity that his father and brother pledged.

"Tram said it best – ‘Harper accomplished a lot of his goals in only four to five months at Carolina,’" Williams said.

Carolina and his faith were Harper’s two great loves, according to his father. The family also has created a fund in Harper's name at Wilmington’s First Presbyterian Church, where the family worships. It supports the church’s youth programs, including financial aid for mission trips and retreats, as well as community and global youth outreach efforts.

Given the deep Tar Heel roots that grounded Harper, the family sees the Harper Beall Williams Memorial Scholarship as a fitting tribute, allowing other students to enjoy a Carolina education.

The scholarship will be for undergraduate students from North Carolina who have financial need. And it will benefit students who embody Harper’s qualities of strong character and leadership.

Regardless of who earns the scholarship, the recipients will carry on the name of a young man who had already achieved much in life. Harper graduated from New Hanover High School in Wilmington, where he earned the Student Achiever Award and was a member of the National Honor Society. His classmates voted him "Best All Around" and he served as senior class vice president. An Eagle Scout, he was an avid outdoorsman. He also belonged to his church youth group and participated in Young Life.

More than 1,500 people attended Harper’s funeral at First Presbyterian.

"He was of highest character, rich with character," Williams said. "He was inclusive – he had more friends than you could even imagine. I hope I touch as many lives as he did in 19 years."

The Williams family aims to raise $25,000 to endow the scholarship fund, which now stands at more than $20,000. Major contributions have come from family members, and Phi Gamma Delta held a fund-raiser that brought in $3,000 for the cause. Harper’s college roommate is selling Carolina blue "awareness" wristbands in is honor, with proceeds going to the scholarship fund.

"Everybody feels the need to do something for Harper, because he would do anything for them," his father said.

Anyone interested in giving to the scholarship fund should contact Candace Clark, Carolina’s associate director of planned giving, at (919) 962-3967 or candace_clark@unc.edu.

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Development communications contact: Scott Ragland, (919) 962-0027 or scott_ragland@unc.edu