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‘Uplifting future generations’

Thanks to a lead gift from Erskine Bowles and more than 50 Carolina alumni and friends, the Campaign for Carolina Steering Committee raised over $3 million to endow the David and Jenny Routh Blue Sky Scholars Fund in honor of the vice chancellor for development and his wife.

Six people standing on the football field.
David and Jenny Routh (center) with family on Chris Smith Field at Kenan Memorial Stadium after Routh received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine (Photo by Jen Hughey)

At the Nov. 18 Chancellor’s Philanthropic Committee meeting, Barbara Hyde ’83, Carolina alum and member of the Campaign for Carolina Steering Committee, called David S. Routh ’82 and his wife, Jenny ’82, to the podium for a surprise announcement.

“In recognition of your enduring impact on the University we all love,” Hyde said, “I’m excited to announce that we, your colleagues and friends, have raised over $3 million to endow the David and Jenny Routh Blue Sky Scholars Fund, which will provide 12 Blue Sky Scholarships in perpetuity.”

Routh, UNC-Chapel Hill’s vice chancellor for development who will retire Dec. 31 after 13 years at Carolina, was moved to tears.

“Nothing could mean more to Jenny and me than support for students — and particularly middle-income students from North Carolina,” Routh later said in his thank you to the more than 50 donors who created this fund. “I was lucky enough to be in this seat when we started discussing this dream with Erskine, and it has now become our dream, too. We can’t believe that there will be middle-income students here at Carolina with a scholarship bearing our name — in perpetuity. Nothing could mean more to us.”

Launched in 2018 with a $5 million gift from Erskine Bowles ’67 and amplified through gifts from hundreds of donors, the Blue Sky Scholars Program supports exceptionally qualified North Carolina residents from middle-income backgrounds. In addition to scholarship support, Blue Sky Scholars receive $2,500 per year in work-study employment; a one-time $2,500 award to support internships, study abroad or other enrichment opportunities; and access to academic, personal and career support.

At the start of the 2022-23 academic year, 40 students had received Blue Sky Scholarships. The amount raised by the Campaign Steering Committee — a group of 10 volunteers who are central to all elements of campaign planning, strategy and implementation — will support an additional 12 students per year in perpetuity.

Current Blue Sky Scholar Brenda Palacios Rodriguez shared that the Blue Sky Scholarship “was a life-opening opportunity.” A first-generation college student of Mayan heritage, Palacios Rodriguez is majoring in environmental studies and studio art as a way to blend her passion for green spaces and creativity. She plans to pursue a career in landscape architecture to help people connect with nature, especially during unique and challenging times. The Blue Sky Scholarship is helping her follow those passions and partake in career-enhancing experiences as she completes her degrees.

“As I go forward, I know that it will be thanks to donors and special people like you who believe in uplifting future generations,” Palacios Rodgriguez said. “Thank you for believing in Carolina scholarships and fellowships, and thank you for believing in me.”

In addition to the creation of the David and Jenny Routh Blue Sky Scholars Fund, Routh received recognition for his service from the Board of Trustees (BOT), the University and Carolina community and the State of North Carolina.

On Nov. 10, he was recognized by the BOT “for his devoted leadership and outstanding service to the University.” On the evening of Nov. 18, the University celebrated the upcoming end of the Campaign for Carolina. With more than $5 billion raised, the campaign is one of the most successful fundraising campaigns ever in public higher education — and Routh’s signature accomplishment as vice chancellor. And at the UNC–Georgia Tech football game on Nov. 19, BOT Chair David Boliek and Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz presented Routh with the prestigious Order of the Long Leaf Pine on behalf of Governor Roy Cooper and the State of North Carolina for Routh’s “extraordinary service to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, its students, faculty, staff and greater community.”

Thanks to these awards and accomplishments and the generosity of the couple’s colleagues and friends, the Rouths’ impact at Carolina will become legacy. And as Hyde noted in her surprise announcement honoring the “very special North Carolina couple,” the Campaign Steering Committee’s efforts to raise more than $3 million for the Blue Sky Scholars Program propels the campaign that much closer to reaching the $1 billion goal for scholarships and fellowships at Carolina — a goal for those who believe in “uplifting future generations.”