Growing up in Sumter, South Carolina, alumnus Edwin Neal (’83 accounting, ’84 MACC) never imagined he’d be working as an executive with a multinational financial institution. Like other South Carolinians who come from underrepresented backgrounds, Neal was able to participate in the university’s Opportunity Scholars Program, which provided him the support he needed to be successful.
Because of his experience with the Moore School and the impact it’s had on his life, he decided to invest in the Moore School’s Rising Scholars Program with the Edwin Neal Annual Scholarship to increase the resources and assistance for underserved students from South Carolina.
A corporate controller for Enterprise Staff Groups with Wells Fargo, Neal participated in UofSC’s Opportunity Scholars Program when he was a student in the 1980s. The federally supported program identifies incoming freshmen who may need additional orientation, mentoring and leadership opportunities to ensure they are able to succeed; these students are also South Carolina residents. Usually, Opportunity Scholars Program students are first-generation college students and/or they have a significant financial need.
“Although the Rising Scholars Program is optional for students, I see a similar opportunity like the Opportunity Scholars Program for Moore School students — the program provides extra mentoring, leadership and exposure to ensure success, especially for minority students,” Neal said. “I want others to have those same positive experiences and the support I did to jumpstart their careers and dream big.”
Like the Opportunity Scholars Program, similar criteria are in place for students to qualify for the Rising Scholars Program, an excellence initiative to develop future business leaders and bridge the opportunity gap for underserved students from South Carolina. To be designated as Rising Scholars, students must demonstrate a record of excellence, resiliency, teamwork and integrity — characteristics that are fundamental to future business leaders.
As part of the Rising Scholars Program, entering its fourth year in 2021-2022, students attend a tailored session of the University 101 first-year experience course, network with successful alumni, are paired with faculty and peer mentors, benefit from personal finance education and have the option to obtain BB&T emerging leadership certificates.
The freshmen may choose to engage in a Rising Scholars-specific, living-learning community in South Tower. All Rising Scholars have access to peer tutors and ad hoc academic resources, and students with financial need receive a renewable scholarship each academic year.
“Having the support of the greater Moore School community shows our Rising Scholars students how valued they truly are,” said Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion Deborah Hazzard. “When our alumni want to give back to our students, it shows that the Moore School family relationship and commitment extends beyond graduation. Moreover, it sets a precedence for our Rising Scholars to reach back and help after they graduate.”
For his contribution, Neal said he wanted an opportunity to give back because the Moore School prepared him well for not only his career but also helping him fulfill his leadership potential.
“The Moore School education has had a tremendous impact on my career,” Neal said. “I want to keep the legacy of excellence alive. I want others to experience what I did without financial concerns as a barrier to experiencing the Moore School. I also give back because I want to do my part to ensure the Moore School can continue to attract the best students and faculty.”
In addition to the new Rising Scholars fund he’s sponsoring, Neal and his brother, Wilfred, established in 2013 the Neal Brothers Endowment Fund to support an accounting student from Sumter, South Carolina, with a scholarship or fellowship each year.