This spring, the Park Scholarships program received a commitment for the 9th co-named Park Scholarship from a supporter long-connected with the program: Park parent and volunteer Brent Bumgarner.
When co-named Park Scholarship donor Brent Bumgarner first read about the Park Scholarships program in a copy of the 1995 NC State alumni magazine, he knew he wanted to get involved.
“I recall thinking the selection criteria was perfect and the rich professional development opportunities for Park Scholars was something that would make a real difference early in their careers,” Bumgarner said. Bumgarner is a 1979 graduate of the College of Engineering, an avid Wolfpack Club representative, and a lifelong donor to the university.
An opportunity to get involved with the Park Scholarships program presented itself when Bumgarner crossed paths with Michele Tam ’00 in 2001. Tam, then a recent graduate and a member of the first class of Park Scholars, met Bumgarner at an NC State-Indiana football game watch party in Cincinnati. Bumgarner rarely missed a home game despite living for decades in Ohio, but attending this game watch instead led to a fortuitous connection.
At the watch party, Tam recruited Bumgarner to serve on Park Scholarships’ Selection Committee, a network of dedicated and talented NC State alumni, faculty, and friends who assist with application review, interviewing, and outreach for each class of Park Scholars. With the exception of the 2009-2010 application cycle, Bumgarner has been involved ever since, including serving a four-year term as Regional Selection Committee Leader for the Central Region and helping to recruit two of his successors in that position.
In 2010, Bumgarner’s connection with the program deepened. His son, Stuart, was named to the Park Scholarships Class of 2014. “It was always a personal dream of mine for my son to go to NC State,” Bumgarner shared. At the time, the Bumgarners lived in Ohio. Stuart aspired to attend medical school after graduation, and Bumgarner says it would not have made sense financially for Stuart to attend NC State without the support of the Park Scholarship. “The scholarship allowed Stuart to achieve his dreams while making it possible to put his savings towards medical school.”
The Park Scholarships program is far more than a monetary award and Bumgarner got to see firsthand how his son flourished at NC State University. “Stuart’s time as a Park Scholar at NC State reinforced his strong personal values and skills while providing the academic preparation, confidence, and determination to thrive in a demanding career as an emergency room physician.” Stuart earned his undergraduate degree from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, completed medical school in 2020, and is now in his second year of residency at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
The combination of hands-on personal and professional development provided to Park Scholars, as well as the engagement of the rich Park Scholarships community is the key value of the program, Brent Bumgarner explained. If the university could replicate this programming for a fee, Bumgarner believes many NC State students would gladly pay that extra cost.
After twenty years of volunteering, Bumgarner says he is still inspired by the talented students who apply for and receive the Park Scholarship. “I look forward to hearing their success stories and seeing how the Park Scholarships program continues to enrich the lives of so many young people.”
“The Park Scholarship is one of the very best merit-based full scholarship programs in the country and it enhances the value of all NC State degrees, past and present,” said Bumgarner.
That is why Bumgarner chose to make a significant contribution to the program. Since his graduation in 1979, Bumgarner has been supporting academic and athletic programs at NC State. He has made gifts to the Park Scholarships program, too, since he began serving on the Selection Committee.
“Once my son became a Park Scholar, I set a personal goal to find a way to repay the scholarship one day.”
Brent Bumgarner and his wife, Laura, made the commitment to fund a co-named Park Scholarship in their estate plans, submitting the paperwork on NC State Day of Giving in March 2021. Their $350,000 endowment will be matched by existing Park Foundation funds to cover one Park Scholarship in perpetuity. In addition to the designation for the Park Scholarships program, the Bumgarners’ estate gift includes a commitment to the Wolfpack Club. Bumgarner said he will look for opportunities to prepay his gift while he is living, but he is happy to know that it is covered in his estate plan.
“I am very proud to provide this opportunity for students in the future. Attracting more talented students to campus via the Park Scholarships program is not only great for the university, but also for the state since many graduates will continue to call North Carolina home as they make amazing contributions throughout their careers.”
“There are several advantages to a planned gift,” Bumgarner shared. “Your commitment can help the organization plan and leverage your gift with other donors. You can continue to build wealth while you are living to help fund your long-term charitable legacy plans. There are also significant tax benefits that help the charity and the estate – I’d encourage anyone who is interested to discuss options with their estate attorney and tax advisor.”
Bumgarner hopes to see the endowment grow to support more Park Scholars in the future. “I expect the Park Scholars to continue to do amazing things on campus and after graduation,” he shared. As the program concludes its 25th year, Bumgarner said that he anticipates the program will rise in national stature over the next 25 years.
“Take full advantage of this opportunity,” Bumgarner offered to Park Scholars. “Challenge yourselves and don’t be afraid to get outside of your comfort zone, because that is really when you learn and develop. Work to develop and master strong team skills because that is a cornerstone of most successful careers. Have fun and enjoy Wolfpack sports as part of your overall experience. Go Pack!”