The initial seed of the idea was planted 20+ years ago when long-time friends Larry Stone and Phil Stevens were riding around Wilkes County contemplating their lives after retirement from Lowes Companies and what they could do to make a difference in their home community. The common ground they found was the value of education and their desire to help kids graduating from high school to be able to go to college. Stone and Stevens would spend many more hours having several more meetings talking about what they could do that would be the most impactful in the community. Stevens went on to establish the Wilkes-Ashe-Watauga (WAW) Endowment, funded largely by an annual golf tournament. Both Stevens and Stone have been engaged for 20 years in the golf tournament, which has led to the WAW Endowment funding numerous scholarships over the years while also building a $1.5 million endowment. Stone also set up The Stone Foundation and has supported many students going to college through that foundation. Both men have also been engaged in supporting Wilkes Community College over the last two decades in various capacities.

Fast forward to 2021, and Wilkes Community College is pleased to announce the establishment of the WCC Education Promise Scholarship. The new scholarship has been made possible through the generous donations of $1.5 million from the WAW Endowment Board and $1.5 million from Diane and Larry Stone, totaling $3 million in charitable giving to establish the program. The WCC Education Promise scholarship is a two-year, last-dollar scholarship that will make college affordable and accessible for every eligible student from Wilkes, Ashe, and Alleghany counties, regardless of their financial status.

“I am so excited to launch this new scholarship program in our service area,” said Dr. Jeff Cox, President of Wilkes Community College. “We are beyond grateful and I cannot thank Phil Stevens and the WAW Endowment Board and Diane and Larry Stone enough for their generous donations of $1.5 million each to establish this terrific new scholarship program. This $3 million provides a strong foundation on which to build toward our $8.5 million endowment goal, which will sustain the WCC Education Promise program and open up access to a college education for generations to come. This generous act is also a testament to the future-looking vision and commitment to our community shared by the individuals who made it possible.”

About Diane & Larry Stone

“The support of Diane and Larry Stone has spanned over 30 years with Wilkes Community College,” stated Allison Phillips, WCC VP of Institutional Advancement/Executive Director of WCC Foundation. “Their caring regard for our students has been phenomenal. Throughout the years, they have made significant charitable gifts to establish the Diane and Larry Stone Student Services office, The Stone Culinary Center, and multiple scholarships. Larry has served on the Wilkes Community College Board of Trustees since 2003, serving as Vice-Chair for 12 of the last 18 years.”

During his 42-year tenure with Lowes Companies, Larry Stone played a key role in garnering support for local non-profits, as well as serving as chairman of the Lowe’s Charitable and Education Foundation for over 12 years. Retiring in 2011 as the president and chief operating officer, Stone continued his philanthropic work through his foundation where he serves as president. Established in 2011, The Stone Foundation is overseen by Larry, his wife Diane, and their sons. The Stone Foundation provides support to numerous organizations throughout Wilkes County, with a large portion of their charitable giving supporting educational causes. Larry and Diane Stone are committed to making a difference in the lives of residents of Wilkes County and are among the leading philanthropists in the area.

“For years Diane and I have discussed how we could help our graduating seniors continue their education and help Wilkes County produce leaders in our community,” stated Larry Stone. “This program will be a great start to ensure that we have people ready to meet the challenges needed by employers and at the same time create new business opportunities.”

About Phil Stevens and the WAW Endowment

Phil Stevens founded the Watauga-Ashe-Wilkes Scholarship Endowment (WAW Endowment), with an initial gift and then supported it and grew it by hosting an annual golf tournament in Ashe County over the last 20 years. Since 2001, the WAW Endowment, a donor-advised fund managed under the North Carolina Community Foundation, has awarded over $500,000 in scholarships to more than 100 graduating seniors in the region. The purpose of the WAW Endowment was to make a difference in young people’s lives by giving them a chance to further their education.

“The WCC Education Promise aligns beautifully with the vision that has always guided the WAW Endowment,” said Phil Stevens, president of the WAW Endowment board, “it has always been about opening more access to a college education for our local young people.”

The WAW Endowment board comprised of Phil Stevens, President; Charles Hartzog, Vice-President; Kim Forrester, Secretary; Kim Barnes, Treasurer; Daphne Petrey, Michael Lyall, Natalie Willis, Bradley McNeil, Danny Holman, and Cary Rousseau, voted unanimously to direct the WAW Endowment funds to Wilkes Community College for the establishment of the scholarship.

The college foundation will be officially launching its fundraising campaign for this program in May 2021, by providing a plan to raise $8.5 million to fund this program for future generations. For more information about how to support this new initiative, please contact Allison Phillips at 336-838-6491.