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A legacy of impact

A new scholarship for incoming first-generation students honors former vice provost’s two-decade legacy of improving the accessibility and affordability of Carolina.

Stephen Farmer
(Photo by University Development)

“When I think about Steve Farmer, I think about the verse in ‘Hark the Sound’ that refers to Carolina as a priceless gem. In my 10 years at Carolina, I have come to believe this University is indeed a priceless gem ― because of people like Steve.”

These remarks were delivered by Carolina alumna Euna Victoria Chavis ’14, ’19 (M.S.W.) at a virtual farewell event honoring Vice Provost for Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions Steve Farmer for his two-decade legacy of improving the accessibility and affordability at Carolina, making the University a more diverse and inclusive institution.

When Chavis met Farmer, she was serving at Purnell Swett High School in Robeson County, North Carolina, as an adviser for the Carolina College Advising Corps. The program, founded by Farmer, places recent college graduates in underserved high schools to reinforce the importance of a college education and guide them through the admissions process.

“I insisted on introducing Steve to one of the students I was advising who was deferred admission to UNC. I told Steve that she was an amazing student and that he would see so himself upon meeting her,” recalled Chavis. “I was 22 years old, in my first job after graduating college and nervous beyond measure to tell the vice provost and director of undergraduate admissions what was on my mind.”

The meeting with Steve and the support of her adviser encouraged the student to proceed with the application process, and she went on to successfully enroll and graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill. She is now in her second year at Carolina Law.

That initial meeting left a lasting impression on Chavis, as well. Much like Farmer, Chavis was a first-generation college student now dedicating her career to helping others succeed ― Chavis serves as the coordinator of the UNC Summer Bridge Program, a transition program that helps incoming first-year students adjust to Carolina.

“What I learned from Steve that day is that advocacy is important and it makes a difference,” Chavis said. “Since that day, Steve and I have had a relationship that we would both define as mutual mentorship, and I now call Steve a friend. From writing recommendation letters for graduate school to sending support to Robeson County, my home community, during the destruction and turmoil of Hurricane Matthew, I have witnessed and been the recipient of true and genuine compassion and care ― qualities that have made Steve such an effective leader.”

Over the years, Farmer’s compassion and care, dedication and hard work have brought thousands of outstanding Tar Heel undergraduates to the Carolina campus. A beloved member of Carolina’s enrollment and admissions team, Farmer could often be found spending time with the students he championed.

“Carolina would not be the place it is today without Steve. He has been a trusted advisor, mentor and friend, and has had an incredible impact on the lives of thousands of students and their families at Carolina and throughout the state,” said Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. “Steve’s commitment is inspiring and his legacy will live on in the students who will benefit from this fund for years to come.”

In honor of Farmer’s leadership, dedication and hard work, two generous donors contributed $1.1 million to launch the Stephen Farmer First-Generation Scholarship Fund to provide renewable scholarships to talented first-generation college students from low- and middle-income families. In addition to being first-generation, eligible students should possess characteristics and values that Farmer represents and which Carolina espouses: intellectual curiosity, leadership, engagement and a collaborative spirit.

“I am deeply grateful to Chancellor Guskiewicz, to the friends who gave selflessly to create this fund and to all our students, whose brilliance, grace and goodness make Carolina the light of the South and the brightest star of all,” shared Farmer. “I hope the first-generation students who receive this scholarship will trust that UNC believes in them and is grateful for the difference they will make in the lives of others, both at Carolina and beyond.”

As Farmer moves on to his new role as vice provost for enrollment at the University of Virginia, the Carolina community echoes the sentiments Chavis shared in her farewell speech: “Steve, you have left a unique and lasting heel-print on this University, and we will surely miss you. Please know that you always have a home and family back here in Chapel Hill.”

Read more about Farmer’s work at Carolina, and honor his spirit and legacy by making a gift to the Stephen Farmer First-Generation Scholarship Fund today.

All gifts made to the fund will count towards The Carolina Edge, the University’s bold goal to raise $1 billion to support academic excellence and create opportunity through scholarships and fellowships for students at every level — from undergraduate and graduate students to those in Carolina’s professional schools.