Thinking Big: Three Donors Honor Dr. Gerald Hawkins With Gifts to Caldwell Fellows Program
For more than half a century, participants in NC State’s Caldwell Fellows program have been encouraged to “think big” and use the power of experiential learning to develop as servant-leaders.
Supported by the vision and building blocks put in place by the program’s first director, Dr. Gerald Hawkins, Caldwell Fellows have taken that directive to heart. Past and current participants enjoy unique opportunities for leadership training, experiential learning, personal and career development, and cross-cultural understanding and civic engagement through service-learning.
Now, to recognize the role Hawkins and the program have played in their lives, three donors have given a combined $1.2 million to grow the Gerald G. Hawkins/Caldwell Fellows Program Endowment.
This initiative is led by Matt King ’01 and supported by an anonymous donor and 2023 Watauga Medal recipient Cathy Sigal ’76 — all Caldwell alumni. The Hawkins Endowment provides sustained, flexible resources for the Caldwell Fellows program, allowing the director to invest in areas of greatest need and evolve the program as new opportunities arise.
With many of the program’s original endowments focused on scholarship support, these gifts will greatly increase stable funding for the core transformational components that have become cornerstones of the program: global experiences, wilderness education, service-learning, summer internships, retreats, dinner seminars and travel to urban centers for visits with Caldwell alumni in their places of work and community life.
Leading By Example
While investing in the program’s future was important for the three donors, their gifts were principally motivated by honoring Hawkins’ own servant leadership, mentorship and personal integrity, which they said defines so much of what the program has been and continues to be.
“I can’t thank Dr. Hawkins enough for everything he did for me,” King said. “I look at the experience I had with the Caldwell Fellows program and with Dr. Hawkins as one of the most seminal moments of my life. I can trace so much of my personal and professional success back to meeting Dr. Hawkins.”
In fact, Caldwell Fellows alumni supporting the program in recognition of the leader who meant so much to them has become its own core experience. The Gerald G. Hawkins/Caldwell Fellows Endowment was established by alumni, friends and family upon his retirement in 2003 in an effort led by Tom Laundon ‘75 and bolstered more recently by a fundraising initiative during NC State’s Think and Do the Extraordinary Campaign.
“I think this endowment goes to the core of what the Caldwell Fellows program is about,” said Sigal. “It gives the director the flexibility to spend funds where they’re most needed and will be the most impactful in a student’s life — and it’s all thanks to Dr. Hawkins’ foresight in designating this purpose.”
Hawkins led the Caldwell Fellows program for 35 years, from its initial inception as the North Carolina Fellows program in 1968. Though he has been retired for 20 years, he keeps in touch with a number of alumni, spanning his four decades of service. The longevity of his influence — and its impact — is illustrated by the 25 years separating Sigal’s and King’s graduation years.
Whether he was encouraging students to engage in valuable global experiences, creating connections to career opportunities or inspiring them to pursue ambitious goals after graduation, Hawkins was a dedicated mentor to the nearly 1,000 students served by the program during his tenure.
Some of these students knew exactly what they wanted to do with their careers. Others were less sure. Regardless, Hawkins was there to help fellows try new things and pursue a broad array of experiences to determine where they fit and what they might want to do postgraduation — something that remains true of the program today.
“Our purpose and values are timeless. What changes are the faces and stories of our students and, following the growing research in leadership development, our practices,” said Dr. Janice Odom, current director of the Caldwell Fellows program.
“Dr. Hawkins established the relational model which continues to define this program. Each new cohort of fellows is intentionally capped at 30 students in order to provide the one-on-one coaching, support and challenge that is critical to develop the deep potential of talented young adults. The wide diversity of each cohort also enables global perspectives for leadership through peer-to-peer learning. Gifts like this open up more possibilities for what we can do in the future.”
Matt King ’01
King is one of the most respected leaders in the global sports betting and online gaming industry as the CEO of Fanatics Betting and Gaming, a subsidiary of Fanatics Inc. Prior to joining Fanatics, King was the CEO of FanDuel Inc., but he began his career as a consultant for McKinsey & Company — a position he found thanks to Hawkins’ mentorship.
“I knew I wanted to work at a top-tier employer, and Dr. Hawkins opened my eyes to the full scope of career options ahead of me,” King said. “He helped make connections for me that were critical in getting my first job out of college.”
King’s experience echoes that of many of his fellow alumni: While the scholarship support offered by the Caldwell Fellows program is undoubtedly important, the professional and personal growth activities are often the most resonant. He considers the program a way for students to shape their own education, pursue the things that interest them and take risks.
When he and his wife, Stephanie Morimoto, decided to give back to NC State, they hoped their commitment would inspire others to join them — amplifying their impact for future students.
“The Caldwell Fellows program expands students’ horizons beyond the North Carolina border,” he said. “What I hope to do with the contribution my wife and I have made is increase the opportunities for fellows to really take advantage of the full range of experiences they have ahead of them.”
For many Caldwell Fellows alumni from smaller towns, arriving at NC State was the first step in expanding those horizons, and DHawkins was there to take them under his wing and offer advice. The donor wishing to remain anonymous was one such student, and his continued friendship with Hawkins has been a key motivator for his philanthropic commitment to the program.
Echoing King’s sentiments, the donor said, “Being mentored by Gerald Hawkins and participating in the fellows program led to a series of academic, professional and cultural experiences which profoundly and totally changed my life.”
“The lifelong friendship and support of Gerald and Barbara Hawkins has been an infinite blessing which I can never repay.”
Cathy Sigal ’76
Sigal, the retired director of international research for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, is a member of the Board of Visitors and Wolfpack Women in Philanthropy. When she was a sophomore at NC State, she planned to travel with a friend to work on a kibbutz in Israel for the summer. She wasn’t sure that her travel was something the Caldwell Fellows program would fund, but she found Hawkins supported the idea.
“He was always encouraging us to try new things, broaden our horizons and grow,” she said.
Though family obligations kept Sigal from taking the trip, knowing that she had the support of the program to pursue such ideas made a meaningful difference, and she remains grateful for the mentorship and kindness Hawkins has offered through the years. “It’s a true legacy,” she said. “He always saw the very best in us and encouraged us to strive to reach our potential.”
When she learned about King’s gift and the impact she could have by joining in, the decision to give back to the Hawkins/Caldwell Endowment was an easy one.
“Count me in for supporting this kind of experiential learning. It is a real joy and privilege to contribute to this endowment,” Sigal said.
The Caldwell Fellows program is the oldest experiential learning and leadership development program at NC State, and it is especially unique in that it has only been led by two directors throughout its rich history.
“We have been extremely lucky, both with Dr. Hawkins and Dr. Odom,” the anonymous donor said. “The strength of the program today — and I do think it’s thriving — is due to these two individuals. They’re very special people, and they both exemplify servant leadership at its highest level.”
The Caldwell Fellows program recently celebrated its 55th anniversary. Looking to the future, the generosity of the three recent Hawkins Endowment donors offers a chance to celebrate how the program has achieved such incredible heights: Starting with the pioneering vision of Hawkins and continuing with the strong service commitment of Odom, servant leadership has always defined what it means to be a Caldwell Fellow.
And, thanks to King, Sigal and the anonymous donor, this will continue to be the case. Odom and future directors will have more resources than ever to support each new cohort of students in their journeys to become the next generation of alumni who think big, serve others and contribute to the program’s enduring success.
Interested alumni and friends are welcome to join these donors in supporting the Caldwell Fellows program or Gerald G. Hawkins endowment by making a gift online or by contacting Lauren Welch ‘04, senior director of philanthropy and Caldwell Fellows alumna.