More than 50 years after receiving his scholarship to Carolina, Rick Margerison ’70, along with his wife Leah, is still finding new ways to pay it forward to support rising generations of UNC-Chapel Hill students.
As a first-generation college student and scholarship recipient, Margerison has a deep appreciation for Carolina scholarships. Margerison and his brother, Kenneth Margerison ’67, both earned scholarships that covered significant portions of their college expenses. With seasonal work and campus jobs, Rick Margerison was able to graduate from Carolina with minimal debt.
“Our family didn’t have any money really, and we both went to Carolina on Whitaker scholarships. They were need-based and grade-based — you had to keep a dean’s list average and your family had to need the money. I don’t know how much debt I would have had or how long it would have taken me to get through without the scholarship. And so, when my wife and I got to the place when we could make some significant contributions, supporting scholarship students seemed like the first place to go.”
Giving to Carolina is a family affair for the Margerisons. A successful career in the energy services industry gave Rick and Leah Margerison the means to help students graduate with little or no debt. Together with his brother, a college professor, and his brother’s wife, Patty ’67, the family has created three scholarship funds that support a total of 18 Carolina students each year.
Margerison considers himself fortunate to have had opportunities to interact with scholarship students over meals and events over the years. After talking with Carolina Covenant Scholars one night over dinner, he realized that for these students, “There is a lot more to [college] than just getting a degree.”
“We are unbelievably proud of how Carolina handles the Covenant. It’s the only school that does it. Getting those Covenant Scholars through with no debt is pretty amazing. There’s just a lot more that those students need.”
Margerison remarked on one common thread in his conversations with students — despite academic success, many are unaware of what steps to take to prepare themselves to find employment after graduation.
This observation led to his support of the Connecting Carolina’s Covenant Scholars initiative that aims to equip Carolina Covenant Scholars with the relationships, experiences and skills to compete and thrive beyond degree completion.
The Margerisons’ gift supports a full-time permanent position focused on career development for Carolina Covenant Scholars. “It’s a big need,” said Margerison. “The gift will fund a coordinator to help students find the resources they need across the University and help them understand that they need to pay attention to preparing for their careers, in addition to their courses.”
Candice Powell, director of the Carolina Covenant, expressed her gratitude for the Margerisons’ most recent gift noting that it “will allow us to build out our Career Accelerator Program and summer opportunities and provide more Carolina alumni venues to share their professional wisdom and networks of opportunity with Carolina Covenant Scholars.”
Rick Margerison’s ambitions don’t end there. He hopes that creating this position will be the start of something much bigger. “We hope this will be a big success. But we realize there are over 2,300 Covenant Scholars, and one coordinator is not going to be nearly enough. We hope if the program can show success with this coordinator, funding for more coordinators can be found in the future.”