A Personal Decision, A Profound Impact: Richard and Judy Vinroot's Gift to the School of Government
“We decided we wanted to do something significant in our lives in gratitude for what the University has meant to us and our children,” said Richard Vinroot of the $1 million pledge he and his wife, Judy Vinroot, made in 2009 to the School of Government.
Forty-five years of close personal, professional, and public friendship provided a focus for that decision: the funds would be endowed in honor of Richard and Judy’s long-time friend, Robert W. Bradshaw Jr.
The choice to make a financial gift to an institution can be highly personal, based on investment logic or family tradition, connection to an issue, gratitude for education or service, or any broad combination of these considerations. Institutions such as the School of Government rely on gifts of every size and frequency in order to fulfill their missions.
The Vinroots’ gift decision was layered. They wanted to do something for UNC-Chapel Hill, where they met as undergraduates. Richard attended college on a Morehead Scholarship, served as class president in his junior and senior years, and played basketball for Coach Dean Smith. He graduated in 1963 with a degree in business administration and earned a law degree in 1966. Judy graduated with a degree in education in 1965. She was a class officer and cheerleader. Their three children subsequently attended the University.
The Vinroots also wanted to honor their friend, and Richard’s partner and mentor, Bob Bradshaw. When Richard graduated from UNC School of Law, he became “the first UNC guy” to join Bradshaw’s seven-person, Duke-populated law firm in Charlotte (the firm now has more than 100 attorneys). Bradshaw mentored Richard in his law practice, when he entered public life as a member of the Charlotte City Council, and when he served as mayor of Charlotte. Bradshaw also chaired Richard's campaign for governor of North Carolina in 1996.
“Bob Bradshaw spent many years encouraging good people to enter public service and then mentoring them once they did so,” said Richard. “Judy and I can think of no better way to honor Bob than at the School of Government, where public service is the essence of the mission. It pays homage to Bob’s involvement in government and how strongly he felt about good government.”
The Vinroots' pledge of $334,000 established the Robert W. Bradshaw Jr. Public Administration Fellowship, which fully funds tuition and expenses to attract the highest quality students to the School’s Master of Public Administration program.
They also pledged $666,000 to fund the Robert W. Bradshaw Jr. Distinguished Professorship. This endowment will support a School of Government faculty member who teaches, advises, and publishes in local and state government fields such as taxation, courts and criminal justice, health and human services, school law, and public employment. This year, this fund reached the amount needed to begin the next phase of planning for its use.
As with most UNC-Duke affiliations, this one is not without a certain bittersweet twist. “Bob Bradshaw was a committed Dukie, and there have been generations of Bradshaws ‘over there,’” said Richard. “When we made this pledge, I loved telling him I had associated him with UNC forever.”
Bradshaw passed away in January 2012, but his legacy will be perpetuated through School of Government faculty who teach and advise government officials every day and the graduate students who become public service leaders in North Carolina and throughout the country. “The Vinroots are known for their support of good government and an ever-stronger North Carolina,” said School of Government Dean Mike Smith. “This gift is clear evidence of their dedication.”
Published April 10, 2017