$11.5 million gift from The Leon Levine Foundation extends UNC Charlotte's transformative Levine Scholars Program

Leon and Sandra Levine (middle) with Levine Scholars
Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The Levine Scholars Program at UNC Charlotte will continue to recruit exceptional high school students from around the nation with support from a new gift of $11.5 million from philanthropists Leon and Sandra Levine through their foundation.

“Even before attending college, these accomplished students have shown their dedication to improving their local communities,” said Leon Levine, founder and chairman emeritus of Matthews, North Carolina-based Family Dollar Stores Inc. “We look forward to watching as the program continues to develop the interests of talented UNC Charlotte students.”

The Levines’ latest gift extends the University’s most prestigious merit-based scholarship program through 2029. The Leon Levine Foundation's support of the Levine Scholars Program makes the Foundation the largest cumulative donor in UNC Charlotte's history. To date, the Levines have donated nearly $30 million through their philanthropic entities to support life-changing scholarships at the University.

“Leon and Sandra Levine’s generous and continued support of the Levine Scholars Program has brought outstanding students to UNC Charlotte,” said Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber. “This latest gift magnifies their remarkable impact on our University and the Charlotte community. It will further enhance the program’s ability to equip the next generation of leaders with the tools, resources and environment needed to engage with the world around them in a significant way.”

Established in 2009 through a gift from The Leon Levine Foundation, the Levine Scholars Program offers standout high school students committed to community service a four-year scholarship to UNC Charlotte valued at approximately $105,000 for in-state students and $155,000 for out-of-state students. The scholarship covers tuition, housing, meals, books and mandatory fees. Beyond the financial award, Levine Scholars benefit from study abroad opportunities, professional networking, personalized mentorship, priority course registration and professional development resources.

“Our scholars possess the inherent desire to make a difference and that has become a unifying characteristic among all 12 classes,” said Diane Zablotsky, faculty director for the Levine Scholars Program. “The generous support from the Levine family has given our students the ability to use their visionary leadership skills to enrich every community they touch.”

Civic engagement remains at the core of the Levine Scholars Program. Recipients have access to an $8,000 grant to implement a service project of their own design and participate in four summer experiences that develop their leadership skills, social awareness and international perspective. Among the Levine Scholars’ community contributions are developing life-skills training classes, college readiness workshops and tutoring programs for young students in Charlotte, building gardening and outdoor spaces for adults in assisted living facilities, and performing post-hurricane clean-up in Puerto Rico. Additionally, scholars have participated in an active archeological dig in Jerusalem, researched HIV transmission and social conflict in South Africa, and taught elementary school students in Shanghai. Students also have interned with Apple, Bosch, British Parliament, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ernst & Young, Google, Honda and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“We are so impressed with the exceptional backgrounds of the Levine Scholars, and we enjoy watching them develop into leaders in Charlotte and beyond,” said Sandra Levine, who serves in key leadership positions for several charitable organizations benefiting education, arts and religious causes throughout the community.

The Levine Scholars Program has seen the members of its diverse graduating classes go on to explore and achieve at high levels. The program has more than 100 alumni, several of whom have received U.S. Fulbright grants to study in Ecuador, India, Nepal and Sweden.

“Simply put, the Levine Scholarship freed me from the many practical challenges of being a student and enabled me to focus on becoming a better scholar, a better community member and a better person,” said Megan Bird, a Class of 2021 Levine Scholar who graduated with bachelor’s degrees in political science and public administration and Spanish. “As grandiose as it might sound, being a Levine Scholar changed my life trajectory, allowed me to pursue my passions and gave me the invaluable opportunity to unlock doors I didn’t know existed when I began this journey.”

Since graduating, Bird has been awarded the esteemed Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship, which she will apply toward her studies at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. Other alumni of the Levine Scholars Program have entered graduate and professional programs at Princeton University, Harvard Law School, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of Oxford.

“The Levines’ commitment to student success echoes our University’s central mission,” said Gaber. “The Levine family has gifted our students with an amazing opportunity to reach their fullest potential.”

To honor the couple, UNC Charlotte named Levine Hall, a 425-bed residence hall prominently located near the University’s main entrance, after the Levines in 2016. The hall houses the administrative offices for the Levine Scholars Program and the Honors College.