Investing in the Future, Driven by Potential
When it comes to the Park Scholarships program at NC State, achieving a “first” isn’t easy.
Whether you are talking about receiving a prestigious national scholarship, starting your own business or being a leader in your respective field, earning the honor of a first-time accomplishment can be challenging due to the sheer talent and work ethic of Park Scholars — with each incoming class seeming to try and outdo their predecessors.
Patricia Bottoms ’82 managed a Park Scholarships “first” feat, though, despite never being part of the program herself.
In 2020, Bottoms became the first major gift donor to the Park Scholarships program without a previous tie to it when she created the $100,000 Patricia Winter Bottoms Endowment.
The mission of the Park Scholarships program is to bring exceptional students to NC State, based on outstanding accomplishments and potential in scholarship, leadership, service and character. Students chosen are awarded four-year scholarships that cover everything from tuition and fees to personal expenses. Additionally, Park Scholars are invited to grow through robust personal and professional development during their four years on campus.
When Bottoms graduated from NC State in 1982 with a degree in business management, the Park Scholarships program was yet to be created. (The program celebrated 25 years in 2021.)
Attracting, developing and mentoring such high-caliber students is an extremely worthy cause and an excellent allocation of assets.
But just a few short years after she became an alumna, Patricia started giving back to the university that had shaped her as a student. She began by supporting the Caldwell Fellows. After more recently learning about the Park Scholarships program, she and her husband, David Bottoms ’81, wanted to get involved with both initiatives.
Later, she learned about the trailblazing nature of her gift.
“I was shocked,” Bottoms said. “I was like, is that right?”
Today, she hopes to inspire others to follow in her footsteps. Funded through her life insurance policy, this endowment will ensure the continued longevity of one of NC State’s most renowned scholarships and will help the next generation of exceptional students continue to change the world.
Living in the NC State Atmosphere
As a student, Patricia knew she wanted to do more than the bare minimum in her time on campus.
The first way she got involved was serving as treasurer of the Quad residence hall council; this role eventually led to her becoming a resident advisor. She soon began learning the power of what she refers to as the NC State atmosphere.
With the basement of Berry Hall in dire straits, Bottoms petitioned her supervisor to see if University Housing could provide the materials while she, through her resident students, provided the labor to redesign the hall. The staff said yes.
“The notion that people in the administration, be it part of housing or other areas of the university, would be so willing and open to support and encourage some ideas that I would have led me to want to do more, of course,” Bottoms said. “The fact that that was the atmosphere that I was experiencing really helped me further my love for the university and my desire to continue to give to the university and see other people be able to grow in other ways, too, again beyond the classroom.”
Investing in Potential
Bottoms doesn’t really recall the exact moment she found out about the Park Scholarships program. She just remembers that when she did, she was immediately intrigued.
“I’m really attracted to the idea that there’s a large focus there on trying to identify very strong students who are just completing high school to make them aware of what a great opportunity NC State could be for them,” she said. “[Then those students] can continue to help the university, they can help the state of North Carolina and they can make a difference in the world at large.”
That potential excited her.
This past year, Bottoms was invited to take part in the interview process for selecting the Park Scholars class of 2026, a task she found to be quite difficult.
“It was both incredible and very hard because these students were so strong,” Bottoms said. “You would read one application to the next, and they’re just knocking it out of the park.”
Through this experience, she was convicted in her dedication to investing in the Park Scholarships program. She recognized the influence those talented individuals would have at NC State. Even more, she saw the effect Park alumni were having across the nation and globe following their time in the program.
To date, 22 classes have graduated from the Park Scholarships program, making up a vast network of more than 1,000 alumni spread across the world.
Bottoms hopes that, through her example, other donors will be inspired to recognize the impact of NC State programs such as Park Scholarships, even if they have not experienced that impact personally. Instead, she wants to share that the success for students in the program — or any program that encourages tenets like leadership, service and character — is worth the support.
For her, the gift simply made sense. When it comes down to it, she loves making wise investments.
“They’re really just an amazing batch of people,” Bottoms said. “[For me], attracting, developing and mentoring such high-caliber students is an extremely worthy cause and an excellent allocation of assets.”