Scholarships that Change Lives

Posted on February 06, 2020

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Joseph Bryan (seated, center) with Bryan Fellows in 1991. The group includes Jeremy Bray, now head of the Bryan School’s Department of Economics

In 1983, Joseph M. Bryan donated $1 million to create the Bryan Scholars program for business and economics students as part of his longstanding commitment to higher education. In 2006, his foundation gave another $1 million. Today, thanks to careful stewardship, the scholarship fund is worth more than $5 million, and it continues to help attract the best and brightest students to the Bryan School of Business and Economics.

“The students who are awarded these scholarships are the cream of the crop and are often being recruited by other top schools,” says Mary Ellen Boelhower, former Bryan School Development Director. “The Bryan Scholars program allows us to compete with top schools for these highly sought-after students. Having them here helps raise the bar for all our students, and has also helped the Bryan School gain more regional and national recognition.”

Over the years, many exceptional students have been Bryan Scholars or Fellows, including Jeremy Bray, who is now head of the Bryan School Department of Economics. “I graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology and was on my way to becoming a copy editor at my hometown newspaper when I was nominated for a Bryan Fellowship by Economics Professor Stuart Allen,” says Bray. “I would not be an economist today if it were not for that. It completely changed the trajectory of my life.”

Bray had the opportunity to meet Joseph Bryan while he was a scholar, and says the encounter was inspirational. “He gave so much to so many people,” he says. “Knowing you’re part of that really gives you a sense of responsibility to continue that legacy and give back.”

Like those who have come before her, Hayden Thomas, who expects to graduate with a degree in Business Administration in the spring of 2020, says the Bryan Scholars program has made a huge difference in her education.

“Being a Bryan Scholar meant I could go to university straight out of high school, and didn’t have to take out loans or find a full-time job to pay for school,” she says. “It’s a relief knowing I don’t have debt waiting for me after graduation, and it gives me more time to focus on my academics and professional development, and pursue my passions.”

Noteworthy Bryan Scholars

Since the first scholarships were awarded in 1985, more than 350 students have directly benefited from Joseph Bryan’s generosity, receiving more than $3 million in total awards at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Here are just a few who have gone on to distinguished careers in their fields:

ʼ85 Bailey Jordan, BS Accounting, partner at Grant Thornton

ʼ89 ʼ92 Jeremy Bray, BA Psychology, MA Applied Economics, head of the Bryan School Department of Economics

ʼ92 ʼ00 Mark Mullins, BS Finance, Insurance, Real Estate; MS Information Systems and Operations Management, Chief Data Officer at United Community Bank

ʼ93 Kevin Tilley, BS Accounting and Finance, CFO of Richardson Corporation/ Piedmont Trust

ʼ96 Marty Kotis, MBA, President and CEO of Kotis Properties, member of the UNC Board of Governors

ʼ03 Jason Schenker, MA Applied Economics, top economic forecaster, Chairman of The Futurist Institute and President of Prestige Economics


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