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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in consultation with the Smith family and with its full support, has launched a fundraising campaign for student assistance to honor the life and legacy of legendary men’s basketball coach Dean E. Smith, who died Feb. 7, 2015.

The campaign will raise money for The Dean E. Smith Opening Doors Fund, which will make college a reality for outstanding undergraduates from lower-income families and enable professionals in education and social work to pursue advanced degrees.

“The world knew Coach Smith as a great basketball coach, but the Carolina family knew him as a great teacher and humanitarian. His care for his players was for life,” UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol L. Folt said. “He was a force for good and a remarkable pioneer, promoting equality, civil rights and respect for all. This fund will be a fitting tribute, opening doors to opportunity for many just as he did.”

To be funded by private gifts and matching University dollars, The Dean E. Smith Opening Doors Fund will be the first at UNC-Chapel Hill to support both undergraduate and graduate students. Recipients will exemplify Coach Smith’s qualities of leadership, service and excellence.

A teacher and humanitarian, Dean Smith was an outspoken advocate for equality and fairness in collegiate athletics and civic affairs. On the court, he brought standout player Charles Scott to Chapel Hill in 1966 as the University’s first African-American scholarship athlete, essentially introducing diversity to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Off the court, Smith was active in the local Civil Rights movement and pushed local business owners to desegregate. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2013.

Smith was the head coach of the Tar Heels from 1961 to 1997, retiring as the winningest coach in college basketball. He led the Tar Heels to national championships in 1982 and 1993, to 13 ACC Tournament titles, 11 Final Fours, and an NIT championship, and directed the United States Olympic Team to a gold medal at the 1976 Summer Games. More than 95 percent of his lettermen graduated.

Coach Smith taught us that excellence could be achieved through hard work, dedication and thorough understanding,” said Eric Montross, a two-time All-American at Carolina who starred on Smith’s 1993 NCAA title team. “Coach also believed in empowering motivated individuals by teaching them how to use their own tools to achieve their goals. This funding endeavor will give the priceless gift of opportunity through higher education.”

The campaign to support The Dean E. Smith Opening Doors Fund will solicit endowment gifts to generate revenue in perpetuity. Based on current attendance costs at UNC, the fund will provide annual $5,000 need-based scholarships for undergraduate students to help them cover college expenses; graduate awards will be up to $30,000 annually for a full scholarship, although smaller amounts also will be awarded to provide a range of resources, such as funding for innovative research, travel and dissertation stipends. The campaign has no set goal or duration, but officials hope to award the first scholarships to students entering Carolina in the fall of 2015.

Gifts to the fund will be divided evenly among the three areas targeted for support. The University will match all gifts dollar for dollar with non-state funds that the chancellor can use at her discretion to meet a campus priority, further leveraging the impact of donor contributions. The matching dollars will support Dean E. Smith Scholars at the undergraduate level, because of this population’s broad presence on campus.

People can make an online gift to the fund at For more information, contact the UNC Office of University Development at
or (919) 962-4385.

Published April 28, 2015.