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Gift to fund annual Eloise McCain Hassell Teaching Excellence Award

David Craft, Eloise Hassell
Alumnus David Craft’s gift to the Bryan School will fund the Eloise McCain Hassell Teaching Excellence Award for professional development.

David Craft ’85 (Business Administration and Management) is a lifelong “doer.” Instead of waiting for others to make things better, he acts on his inclinations to support and serve his community. Therefore, it is no surprise that as he reflected on the influence UNC Greensboro faculty have had on his life and career and those of others, Craft decided to act, encouraging continued teaching excellence at the Bryan School of Business and Economics by establishing a faculty teaching award.

Craft’s gift to the Bryan School funds the Eloise McCain Hassell Teaching Excellence Award for professional development. The annual award will recognize and further enhance the work of faculty members in the Bryan School or those who teach courses in other areas of the University that are required in the Bryan School business core curriculum or a specific Bryan School major.

“We go to school to learn,” Craft says. “Professors and faculty who can capture our attention with essential information and help us gain embedded knowledge are the lifeblood of a university. I hope this award will be that small boost that a professor or teacher needs to keep doing what they do so well.”

THANKFUL FOR HIS BRYAN SCHOOL EXPERIENCE

Craft has always valued education. “College, in general, builds a good solid foundation for work. Getting up, going to class, getting assignments done on time, and interacting with other students and professors all help us grow and mature,” he says.

Craft has fond memories about his time at UNCG, where he was involved in student orientation and the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.

“Being involved on campus and experiencing the quality of teaching there created powerful and enduring connections to UNCG,” Craft says. “I have always been impressed with how many great UNCG teachers there are.”

Upon graduation from UNCG, Craft became the third generation to join the family business, Craft Insurance Group, started by his grandfather. He eventually served as executive vice president, CEO, and then board chair. The company joined AssuredPartners in 2017, where he serves as an advisor.

Before establishing the faculty award, Craft and Ron Sydell ’96 (Business Administration and Management) established an endowed scholarship to serve as a legacy to their former teachers.

“I was fortunate to have had professors who were leaders in the field of insurance. I could not say enough about how engaging they were in class,” Craft says. He considers their influence and his father’s good example as his reasons for career success.

INSPIRED BY STUDENTS

When Craft decided to establish the new faculty award, he called upon his experience of more than 30 years attending UNCG scholarship luncheons, just as his father did. Bill Craft established the Craft Family Endowed Fund in 1995. Amended in 2014 and renamed the William H. “Bill” Craft Business Scholarship, it has been awarded 35 times since 2004 to 15 different undergraduate students in the Bryan School with interests in insurance and risk management.

“I attend the Scholars and Donors Luncheon each year and enjoy meeting scholarship recipients,” Craft says. “I always ask about teachers and kept hearing how wonderful Eloise Hassell is. I knew she was making a difference and decided to name the award for her. She is the one who needs to be recognized. I just provided the means.”

Eloise McCain Hassell, senior lecturer in the Department of Management, disagrees – with grace – about that summation.

“David is the one who embodies excellence,” Hassell says. “He saw a great example in his parents, who just lived out the meaning of service to the community and to our school. David is keeping that legacy alive, making the world a better place in all that he does.”

EXEMPLIFYING TEACHING EXCELLENCE

Hassell is an award-winning educator with more than 30 years of teaching experience at UNCG. Her many accolades — including two university-level teaching excellence awards, YES! Weekly’s 2013 Triad’s Best College Instructor honor and earning the UNCG Bryan School Teaching Excellence Award six times since 1998 — are one visible symbol of her teaching excellence. But it’s Hassell’s dedication to teaching the individual and her philosophy about education that defines her as among the best in her profession.

“For me, teaching is a joy,” she says. “I become part of our students’ lives at a very sacred juncture where they are figuring out what they want to do and how they want to make a difference in this world. I take my job of helping them achieve those goals very seriously and want to make sure my students know that I care.”

One of the ways she shows that caring is by meeting with each of her students individually to get to know their goals, their dreams and what inspires them. “I want to know them as people and help them in any way I can to make the most of their time with us. In doing so, I often learn what these students have to go through to get their degree. Their stories inspire me to give my best every day because they are doing the same,” she says.

As a lawyer and an educator, Hassell is dedicated to helping her students understand their law courses not just as a requirement to earn their degrees, but as life lessons that will serve them well after graduation.

“Law impacts all areas of life,” she says. “I only have one chance to equip students on where to find the law, when to call a lawyer, and to realize that actions can be taken proactively to avoid lawsuits. I want to help them understand legal essentials they will need for the rest of their lives.”

As a veteran educator, Hassell also appreciates being part of a team that impacts individuals in ways that make them good citizens.

“I feel privileged to have the award named in my honor,” she says. “But everyone on campus plays a vital role in the excellent UNCG experience that helps students thrive. By doing our jobs right, we become part of a team that helps these students strive on campus and succeed in their professions.”

DEDICATED TO SERVICE

Like Hassell, Craft is loath to toot his own horn. However, he too is a well-respected and honored member of the Greensboro community. His citizenship and advocacy for the betterment of Greensboro are legendary: he was instrumental in establishing the countywide system of passive parks, integral to the ongoing preservation of the Uwharrie National Forest trail and Haw River State Park, among other community service activities. At UNCG, he has served on the Weatherspoon Art Museum board and the Excellence Foundation, as well as being an avid supporter of Spartan Athletics.

In 2020, Craft was awarded the UNCG Minerva Service Award for his service and dedication. “My reaction when I received that award was ‘Gosh, I think there are probably others who are more deserving.’ However, I was truly honored,” he says.

Both Hassell and Craft agree that excellence in teaching is a foundational element that serves students and the community.

“Teaching is a unique opportunity to help students discover what makes them happy, what they love to do, how to connect with a need in the community,” Hassell says. “By elevating the teaching profession, this award encourages all of us in our jobs, helping students develop into good citizens.”