Shore college gets $3 million donation

Gift to UMES will go toward scholarships, training, professorship

September 21, 2004|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Richard F. Hazel, a retired bottling company executive who never attended college, has donated $3 million to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, the largest gift to any of the state's historically black colleges, state officials announced yesterday.

The money will be paid over five years and will be used to give scholarships to education majors, create an endowed professorship and pay for education faculty training, school officials said.

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele and other state leaders recognized Hazel's gift in a ceremony yesterday at the university's Princess Anne campus, where they named a new academic building in his honor.

Historically black schools such as UMES "play a significant role in educating minority students and increasing opportunities in our communities. This gift will help preserve that tradition and hopefully set a trend of enhanced support," Steele said.

Hazel, 75, former president of the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Salisbury, attended the ceremony but did not address the crowd. He rarely speaks in public, his son Morgan said.

He said his father has lived on the Eastern Shore since he was 10 years old. As a young man, he became friends with a black neighbor and has since donated money to black churches and minority groups in the Salisbury area, Morgan Hazel said.

"He wanted to do something to uplift the minority community, and he felt that educational opportunities were the best way to do that," the son said.

The elder Hazel began working at the bottling company in 1957, when he was hired by his father-in-law. The company, a family-owned independent franchise, was the first Pepsi bottler to offer the soft drink in cans. It employed more than 350 people and had more than $60 million annually in revenues. The Hazel family sold the business this year.

Before Hazel's gift, the biggest donation to a historically black university in Maryland also went to UMES, which received a $2 million gift last year. Morgan State University received $1.5 million from an alumnus in 2000.

Hazel made a $5,000 donation to UMES last year and had said he would consider a larger gift. Campus officials set their sights low at first. "I was thinking about $100,000," said Gains Hawkins, the university's vice president for institutional advancement, who negotiated much of the deal.

In an e-mail to Hazel, Hawkins mentioned that the naming rights for one of the school's new buildings would be $3 million. After meeting with school officials, the family agreed to the figure early this summer.

Morgan Hazel said his father never considered donating to another school. "Our home is the Shore, our business is on the Shore, so the gift is going to be for the Shore," he said.

There are about 350 education majors at UMES, and school officials hope the number will grow, thanks to Hazel's gift.

"We will be forever indebted to Mr. Hazel for his generosity to UMES, his passion for producing excellent teachers and his love of the Eastern Shore," said Thelma B. Thompson, the university's president.

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