Gold Rush

Jeanette Sims, senior director of Community Relations and University Events at UNC Charlotte, recently honored her father, the late J. Bryan Sims, by endowing a Gold Rush Grant in his name.

The J. Bryan Sims Jr. Memorial Gold Rush Grant Endowment will provide one-time micro-grants to students who meet the following eligibility requirements: earned credit hours equal to senior status, GPA of 2.0 or higher, are in good academic standing and are economically disadvantaged as determined by FAFSA. As grant recipients, students are required to complete two future-building activities designed either to help them complete their degrees or prepare for their futures.

J. Bryan Sims believed in the transformational power of education and worked hard to provide scholoastic opportunities for his children and grandchildren.

“I have had great opportunities because my father made sure I had access to a great education,” said Jeanette Sims, who has wanted to establish a scholarship in her father’s name for a while. When she learned about the Gold Rush Grants and how they help students, especially first-generation students, cross the finish line to graduation, she decided to act. She would endow a Gold Rush Grant to honor her father, while helping students fulfill their dreams of earning a college degree.

After attending Monticello A&M and the University of Arkansas, J. Bryan Sims enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps . He completed training as a glider pilot and participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, piloting a British Horsa glider carrying a Jeep with trailer and 13 men of the 82nd Airborne. For his part in the mission, he received a medal.

Sims also participated in the invasion of Holland and the crossing of the Rhine River into Germany. In a videotaped interview made in the early 2000s, Sims said he was proud of the fact that he delivered his troops uninjured and in the proper location on each of his missions. During the D-Day landing, Sims needed to make a last-minute maneuver to avoid landing right in the heart of a German battalion.
(pictured: Jeanette Sims with a photo of father J. Bryan Sims)

UNC Charlotte received a grant from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities in 2016 and an Institute of Education Sciences grant from the Department of Education in 2017 to start the Gold Rush Grant Completion program. During the course of four semesters, 334 Gold Rush Grants totaling $501,000 have been awarded to seniors.

Thanks to generous donors like Jeanette Sims and a $1 million matching gift from the UNC Charlotte Foundation, the completion grant program is expanding and has the potential to provide financial aid to more of the 2,339 college seniors from North Carolina who have unmet financial needs.  

“These grants not only provide students the funds to finish, but also serve as a tangible reminder to students that we believe they have what it takes to earn a degree,” said Tina McEntire, associate provost for enrollment management. “When donors give to the Gold Rush Grant program, they are able to witness students they helped cross the finish line to graduation within a year in most cases.”

Read more about how Gold Rush Grants are helping students on page 59 of the spring UNC Charlotte Magazine, and learn how EXPONENTIAL: The Campaign for UNC Charlotte is furthering opportunity and access.