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UNF Foundation, Inc.

Hard work comes full circle

For two decades, The McCurry Foundation has helped more than 150 students realize their dream of going to college.

Scholarship recipients were students with good grades, leadership skills and who were willing to work to help pay for their college education – all attributes of their late benefactor, Edgar W. McCurry Jr.

mccurry talking to a group of students in alumni hallMarketing to those students was a bit of a stretch for the small foundation, according to McCurry’s son, Wood. The selections were made by “a half-dozen people with careers who got this work done when they were able to t it in,” he said.

But a new relationship with the University of North Florida addresses those issues. McCurry said the corpus of the foundation is in the process of being transferred to UNF, which he believes will effectively manage the funds.

He said the school’s donor engagement team has made the transition an easy process and is targeting the kind of students who match the foundation’s criteria.  

The elder McCurry began developing leadership skills early in life. When he was just 16, he sought sponsorship from a U.S. Senator in his home state of North Carolina, then graduated from the Senate Page School as salutatorian and student body president. McCurry later became the second youngest graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Law.

Early in his career, he served as general counsel of the prestigious Jacksonville firm of Stockton, Whatley, Davin & Company. He continued to practice law and develop real estate in the Jacksonville area until his death in 2004. The foundation, started in 1994, offered scholarships in several counties in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia.

“He wanted to give back to the communities that helped him develop his success,” said Pam Stefansen, who began working for him in 1977 and later became the foundation’s director and treasurer.

Laura Rodriguez is among the first five McCurry Scholars at UNF selected for the fall semester. She and her parents immigrated to the United States from Cuba through the visa lottery when Rodriguez was about a year old. They started out living in Miami but soon moved to Jacksonville. 

A graduate of Stanton College Preparatory School, Rodriguez is majoring in international studies with a concentration in Latin America. As is required of McCurry Scholars, she is working part time to help pay for her education.

Rodriguez enjoyed meeting Wood McCurry at a reception for the scholars. “It was interesting to hear what the scholarship means to him,” she said.

What it means to Rodriguez is simple. “Without it, I couldn’t go to school,” she said.

Because of a determined and generous man born more than a half a century before her, Rodriguez and many others have a path to a college degree.