Chapel Hill, NC – On Monday, Carolina Athletics and The Rams Club announced their largest gift in history: a transformational commitment to support the Carolina football program with resources to build on its recent success and secure future excellence.
The gift was made by The Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation. The foundation is headed by longtime Carolina leader and benefactor Eddie Smith Jr. ’65 of Greenville, North Carolina, and was cofounded with his late wife Jo Allison Smith. This historic commitment will honor their son Chris Smith ’87 by naming the field at Kenan Memorial Stadium the Chris Smith Field. Chris is involved in University and Athletics leadership roles and serves as a member of The Rams Club’s Executive Board of Directors.
“Our family believes in the positive impact the University of North Carolina and its athletic program can have on our communities,” said Eddie Smith. “Watching the Tar Heels play in Kenan Stadium has been a family affair for over 60 years, and it was important to us to support Coach Mack Brown and his vision for Carolina Football. To be able to honor my son Chris – someone who has shared my passion for Carolina and for promoting positive leadership qualities – is very special. It’s a blessing for us to be able to provide a lasting legacy for Carolina and its football program.”
The gift will support staffing needs, fund facility improvements and help build an endowment to cover future operating costs. It comes at a time of great momentum for Carolina Football. Last season, the Tar Heels finished with a winning record in Mack Brown’s first season back in Chapel Hill and captured the program’s first bowl victory since 2013.
“Eddie and Chris are dear friends of Sally and me, as was Eddie’s wife and Chris’ mother Jo Allison. They share our vision for Carolina football,” said Brown. “Eddie is a person who sees all the little things, but has a great sense of the big picture, which is very unusual. It is a trait that has served him well both in life and business. This gift helps give us the means to continue building a program representative of the excellence we see every day at UNC and to ensure that same excellence will remain into the future. We often talk about our Carolina Football Family, and the Smiths have been a major part of that for a long time. Family has always been important to them and we’re so glad they will remain associated with the program through this gift and field naming. We’re honored to share in their legacy and thankful for their continued support of our program. We have asked everyone in our program to ‘Be The One’ and the Smith family is doing that. They are the best.”
The Smiths have generously supported many areas beyond athletics at the University, including the UNC School of Medicine, where the family has established professorships, fellowships and numerous clinical research funds. They have also supported student scholarships, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, the UNC College of Arts & Sciences and the University Libraries, among many other areas.
“Eddie and his family have made a difference on every corner of our campus, and by extension our state, nation and world. This gift builds on an already remarkable legacy of generosity and leadership,” said Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz. “In addition to elevating our football program, they have supported medical researchers and clinicians with vital resources and made Carolina more accessible for our students. We are profoundly grateful and excited to honor Chris in this way.”
The Smith Family has a long history of support for Carolina Athletics, making gifts that helped build the Eddie Smith Field House named for Eddie Smith Jr.’s father, the Jo Allison Smith Football Strength & Conditioning Center, the Chris Smith Training Room for Carolina Basketball, the Smith Family Suite Level at Boshamer Stadium, and the William Clary Officials’ Locker Room at Kenan Stadium named for Jo’s father.
“We truly appreciate all that Eddie and his family have contributed to Carolina Athletics and our University, and we can’t thank them enough,” said Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham. “Their generosity will help position our football program to sustain a high level of excellence for years to come, and it will make an impact on all of our students and coaches because it will allow us to apply other resources across our entire program.”
Smith is owner, chairman and CEO of Greenville-based Grady-White Boats. His numerous leadership roles at Carolina include serving as a past member of the UNC Board of Trustees and chair of The Rams Club. He also has served on the Boards of Visitors for the University and the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, among many volunteer positions. For his service to the University he has received the William Richardson Davie Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Board of Trustees. His business-career honors include induction into the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame and named the Carolinas Master Entrepreneur of the Year.
The Smith family’s latest gift counts toward the University’s most ambitious fundraising campaign in history, For All Kind: the Campaign for Carolina. The Campaign for Carolina launched in October 2017 with a goal to raise $4.25 billion by December 2022.