The Pope Foundation has created a new Academic Achievement Scholarship at Vance-Granville Community College in honor of retired Variety Wholesalers, Inc., President Wilson Sawyer of Raleigh.
The scholarship will award $500 per year to a deserving student enrolled at Vance-Granville. Priority will be given to students who are employees of Variety Wholesalers (home store, distribution center or retail stores) and members of the families of those employees. Preference will be given to students who are pursuing a degree in Business Administration.
"Our business roots in the area go back many years and we are proud to call Henderson and Vance County 'home,'” said James Arthur “Art” Pope, chairman of Variety Wholesalers. “Wilson never lost sight of our customers and our promise to deliver great value and prices. We’re grateful for his friendship and dedication over these many years. We hope this scholarship inspires a new generation of leaders who share Wilson's commitment to service.”
“There are two reasons I’m excited about this scholarship,” said the honoree, Sawyer. “Number 1, if it helps folks in the company that helped me for many years, that’s a plus. Number 2, I’m a big supporter of the community college program and I think it’s important to encourage folks to start their education here.”
Sawyer knows about the community college experience first-hand, he said. His daughter was a student at Central Carolina Community College in Sanford before transferring to a four-year institution when the family moved to Raleigh. “She excelled in college and I think it’s because of the basis that she got at the community college.” His daughter is now a school teacher, he said.
Following a lifelong career in retail, Sawyer retired as president of Variety Wholesalers in February. He started his career in the Maxway store management program, rising to hold various roles. When Variety Wholesalers acquired Maxway in 1990, Sawyer stayed with the company as president of the Maxway division. After years of leading multiple store brand divisions, he was named president and chief operating officer of Variety Wholesalers Stores in 2003. When Bruce Efird joined Variety Wholesalers Stores as president in 2017, Saywer moved to holding company leadership. He remains on Variety’s board of directors and is assisting the company in an advisory capacity.
“We are excited that the Pope Foundation and Variety Wholesalers have chosen to honor Mr. Sawyer with this new scholarship,” said Eddie Ferguson, director of the VGCC Endowment Fund. “Both have been stalwart supporters of our students and the college through contributions to scholarships and activities such as our golf tournament which also benefit students.”
“I’ve been so impressed with the community support that has come to my attention since becoming Vance-Granville’s interim president,” added Dr. Gordon Burns, who assumed the new role in mid-August while VGCC searches for a permanent president. “This gift from the Pope Foundation will continue to honor Mr. Sawyer and help students each and every year, serving as a reminder of the importance of a community and its institutions getting involved in the education of our citizens. We are so grateful.”
Founded in 1986 and located in Raleigh, the Pope Foundation makes grants to advance individual freedom, personal responsibility and encourage opportunity for all North Carolinians. The Pope Foundation’s lifetime giving totals more than $145 million directed to over 400 nonprofits. The Pope Foundation receives its support from the Pope family, owner and operator of the Henderson-based Variety Wholesalers, Inc.
The new scholarship will add to the more than 9,000 scholarships that have been awarded to students since 1982, funded by interest earned on the Endowment Fund and Scholarship Program. Scholarships have been established by individuals, industries, businesses, civic groups, churches and the college’s faculty and staff to assist deserving students. Tax-deductible donations to the VGCC Endowment Fund have often been used to honor or remember a person, group, business, industry or organization with a lasting gift to education. In the Fall of 2017, Vance-Granville awarded scholarships to 306 students.
For more information, the Office of the Endowment can be reached by calling Endowment Specialist Kay Currin at (252) 738-3409.
Above, Wilson Sawyer, center, the retired president of Variety Wholesalers, Inc., in Henderson, has been honored by the Pope Foundation with the creation of an Academic Achievement Scholarship to benefit students of Vance-Granville Community College. With him, from left, are Eddie Ferguson, director of the VGCC Endowment Fund, and Kay Currin, endowment specialist.