Karen Stevenson might not have set out to blaze a trail, but she did.
Charles Waddell, too, was ahead of his time.
For the second straight year, Carolina Athletics on Saturday will honor pioneering former student-athletes with the Trailblazer Award, and this year’s honorees are memorable in a myriad of ways.
Stevenson, who competed in track and field at UNC-Chapel Hill, was the first African-American female to earn a Morehead Scholarship at Carolina. She went on to become the first woman from UNC and the first black woman in the nation to earn a Rhodes Scholarship, in 1979.
“I didn’t give the statistics a lot of thought,” Stevenson told goheels.com. “I always just did the things that I was passionate about. I pursued the things that I was interested in and I think I was a little fearless in those things and a little courageous in those things, and I didn’t think, ‘Well, I shouldn’t do that because nobody like me has ever done that before,’ and likewise I didn’t think I want to do that because I might be the first. I want to do that because that’s what I enjoy. That’s who I am.”
Waddell was a three-sport letterwinner for the Tar Heels, competing in football, basketball and track. He received the Patterson Medal, Carolina’s highest athletic award, in 1975 and went on to earn an MBA from UNC.
“I don’t know if it was anything that I was trying to do,” Waddell told goheels.com. “You just try to be somebody who builds bridges, rather than dealing with the negative side.”
The two newest Trailblazers will be honored at halftime Saturday’s men’s basketball game. Last year, in the inaugural year of the program, honorees were Courtney Bumpers, Robyn Hadley, Ricky Lanier and Charles Scott.
Published February 19, 2015