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Celebrating Birthdays & the Joy of Giving |

Celebrating Birthdays & the Joy of Giving

Perhaps it was because of the poverty stricken years of my youth that as an adult I never craved having a birthday party, nor bothered to give my wife and son my birthday wish list. For a long time now, I have had the financial wherewithal to buy gifts for myself or others without having to wait for holidays, birthdays, weddings or other special events to do so. The only time I ever acquiesced to a celebration of my birthday was when I turned 65 years of age. I informed my wife and our friends who were “secretly” organizing a party for me that I would attend as long as they agreed not to spend money on gifts I neither needed nor wanted, and that in lieu of gifts, funds would be donated to the Scholarship Endowment at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), the institution that I had the privilege of serving as Chancellor at the time. Instead of several hundred birthday cards, I suggested that one extra large card signed by everyone would be just fine and the funds saved could be donated to the scholarship fund. There was one other thing I wanted for sure, and that was a live-band that could play dance music suitable for all ages—including University students and ageing baby boomers like myself. On September 11, 2011, I danced to every tune until I was sweating more than I did as a cotton chopper during the days of my youth. Gifts from the party goers, combined with the match from my wife and me, yielded more than $15,000. With gifts before and since my 65th birthday celebration, the NCCU Charlie and Jeanetta Nelms Scholarship Endowment now stands at over $200,000 — which is comparable to our endowed scholarship fund balances at two other universities but lower at a third.

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