Couple's gift supports students in Engineering, Education
Ron Hairr can remember taking out student loans in the 1970s to fund his way through the civil engineering program at NC State.
During the second half of his time at NC State, he was married, working 24-40 hours a week and going to school.
"Between working, studying, sleeping and going to school, it was a hard road to go down," Hairr, a 1978 graduate in civil engineering, recalled.
His wife, Cathy Faircloth Hairr, graduated in 1979 from the College of Education and spent her career as a teacher. She'd seen students who had the grades to go to college, but didn't have the finances.
"It became apparent to us that money makes all the difference in the world when it comes to getting a college education," Ron Hairr said. "We wanted to be able to help other deserving people not have to work so hard to get an education."
The couple established a gift in their estate to be shared equally between the College of Education and College of Engineering. Their gift will provide full cost of attendance scholarships every year for two students in need.
"I read so much about the student loans today, and so many cases where they can't pay them off," Hairr said. "I wanted to provide help that didn't need to be paid back."
He also credits Cathy, as the educator in the family, with sharing her appreciation for the importance of education, along with the impact of his own professors at NC State who helped him see the importance of supporting higher education as well.
Hairr was accepted to NC State during his junior year of high school and could have graduated high school early, but says with a laugh that his parents weren't ready to send him up to Raleigh at 17 years old.
He enrolled in 1970 and by his second year, settled on mechanical and aerospace engineering. But at the end of that year, as the Vietnam War was winding down, his professors were instead encouraging students to pursue other avenues in engineering. The end of the war meant firms making planes, rockets and other wartime materials were laying off thousands of engineers rather than hiring them.
Hairr took the next 18 months away from NC State to think about where he would go next in engineering. A professor suggested civil engineering, and Hairr realized it was the right fit allowing him to pursue a similar avenue in building infrastructure such as airports, ports and highways.
"I decided to go that route and I just fell in love with civil engineering," he said.
He returned to NC State to finish his degree, followed by a long, successful career within both engineering firms and as a consultant before retiring about six years ago.
The Hairrs requested the two scholarships go to North Carolina residents, and that those selected show promise in the fields of math education and engineering, with a focus on civil and environmental engineering. Hairr said they want to support students that show financial need as well.
"We firmly believe in reaching down and grabbing an arm and saying, let me help pull you up," he said.