SANFORD, N.C. - Many local students will have an easier time paying for their education at Central Carolina Community College thanks to the Elizabeth Carrington O'Connell Scholarship, a new academic award established this spring.
Dr. Larry O'Connell, a retired optometrist and native of Sanford, created the endowed scholarship with a significant contribution to the CCCC Foundation. The award honors his late wife, who passed away in 2016 after a lengthy illness, and will be presented annually to a Lee County resident on the basis of academic achievement and need.
Elizabeth, widely known as Liz, was an alumna of Sanford Central High School and Greensboro College, where she graduated in English, with a minor in history. Last year, Larry established a scholarship for Elizabeth at Greensboro College. After college graduation, Liz taught middle grades in English and history, first in Wilmington and then in Virginia and Tennessee while she and Larry pursued his early career in textiles.
After Larry changed course and completed his Doctor of Optometry degree at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, they returned to Sanford, where Larry established a practice and Liz taught at what was then East Lee Junior High before leaving the teaching profession to assist with the optometric practice.
Scholarships like the one at CCCC are a particularly appropriate way to honor Liz's legacy. Not only was she a teacher, but an avid reader -- Larry figures he's already given away hundreds of his wife's books and still has hundreds left -- and she would be happy that the money the couple managed to earn in life was going to help young people. She always wanted to have children, but was never able, Larry said.
"She cared nothing about monetary things," he said. "But she did care about family and she did care about children. She would be very happy to know that young people were benefitting."
In addition to helping students reach their academic and career goals, the endowment will enhance the college campus for everyone. As part of the endowment arrangement, the CCCC Foundation will plant Kwanzan Japanese flowering cherry trees on campus.
That variety of cherry tree, which also lines the tidal pool in Washington, is one of Larry's favorite varieties. "Those are such beautiful trees that they remind me of her," he said. "Nobody will ever know what a beautiful person she was, but I'm doing everything I can to make sure she's never forgotten."
Dr. Emily Hare, Executive Director of the CCCC Foundation, thanked Dr. O'Connell for his financial contribution and for investing so much in students -- whether it was for members of his extended family, undergraduates studying in Greensboro or students at CCCC who will now find it easier to reach their dreams.
"He is well known in the Sanford area for his generosity and we are thankful he is choosing to remember his sweet wife, Elizabeth, by honoring her through an endowment," Hare said. "Beautiful cherry trees will be planted at the Lee County campus in her memory so that all students and staff can share in a bit of her sunshine."
The CCCC Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization affiliated with, but independent of, the college. It receives donations of money and equipment on behalf of CCCC and uses them to promote the educational mission of the college and assist students through scholarships and grants.
For information on giving to the CCCC Foundation, contact Dr. Emily C. Hare, Executive Director of the CCCC Foundation, 919-718-7230, or email@example.com.
Dr. Larry O'Connell, a retired optometrist and native of Sanford, created the endowed Elizabeth Carrington O'Connell Scholarship in honor of his wife.