Campbell University is one of 29 schools whose young women have benefited from Lettie Pate Whithead Foundation scholarships since the program launched in honor of the renowned businesswoman and philanthropist in 1954. Four current recipients share their stories.
For the past 69 years, the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation has been providing annual grants for the education of deserving Christian female students at accredited educational institutions across the Southeast. Today, the Lettie Pate Whitehead Scholarship is awarded to young women with financial need at 195 schools including Campbell University, which was one of the 29 originally involved institutions when the scholarship was launched for schools in 1954.
Since then, the foundation has granted more than $54 million in scholarships to young women at Campbell.
The foundation is named in honor of renowned businesswoman and philanthropist Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans (1874-1953), wife of Joseph B. Whitehead, who found great wealth as one of the original bottlers of Coca-Cola. She took over the bottling business and real estate interests after her husband’s death and became one of the first female directors of any major American corporation when she was appointed to the board of the company in 1934. She gave generously to educational institutions throughout her life.
Created by her youngest son, Conkey Pate Whitehead, in honor of his mother, the foundation was chartered in 1946 to benefit Christian women in nine states and has since awarded nearly $935 million in grants.
This year, 157 young women enrolled at Campbell are receiving support from the Lettie Pate Whitehead Scholarship. That’s more than 5 percent Campbell’s female population.
“I think it would have been impossible for the Whitehead family to imagine the enormous impact this scholarship would have over time,” said said Carrie Conway, LPWF senior program officer. “When Conkey Whitehead wrote his last will in 1937, the professional opportunities available to women were very limited, and it was not common for women to achieve higher education. He was ahead of his time in his focus on women’s education. Today, roughly 60 percent of college students in this country are women.”
The Lettie Pate Foundation awards “need-based” scholarships. Many of the recipients fall into that category by way of growing up in a single-parent or foster household, growing up with financial hardships, or having some other circumstances.
“The founding history of the scholarship is rooted in a focus on need-based aid. That’s been our North Star from the beginning,” Conway said. “I’m always struck by the individual stories of scholars overcoming so many obstacles in pursuit of higher education.”
The following section highlights four Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation Scholars who currently attend Campbell University.
From the moment she first visited campus, Kaitlyn Facemire knew Campbell was right for her. She had a 4.2 GPA in high school and “could have attended other schools” but Campbell stood out among her visits.
“It may be a little cliché, but just the sense of community and family that they had on campus; really, it made me feel like this is where I need to be,” she said.
Facemire said she’s very comfortable with Campbell’s modest size and intimate classroom experience.
“Being in the second semester of my freshman year, I have been able to see that play a role in the academics — the family aspect and one-on-one with my professors,” she said. “Last semester, I had Dr. [Karen] Guzman for basic biology, and it was hard. But I got through, because I would go to her office and sit down with her, and she would help me tremendously.”
Facemire is taking classes in kinesiology to one day become a physician’s assistant, but that’s a recent development. She switched her major in March and was shocked by how versatile and applicable the credits she had already gained proved to be.
“I feel like this is where I need to be. And even changing my major, I didn’t realize how far I was on my track for life. So I sat down with my advisor, and I came into Campbell with 25 credits before starting because of high school dual enrollment,” she said.
Facemire’s family has endured adversity for much of her life, and it’s led to a strong bond between her and her mother, whom she calls her role model. Her father died after a battle with cancer when she was 2, and her mom has raised her as a single parent since.
“She’s been very strong, so just having one strong parent do all that showed me I could do anything,” Facemire said. “My mom has always been there for me and my brother and wants us to do our best.”
Facemire, who is originally from West Virginia and moved to the Chapel Hill area, said she identifies with the Christian values Campbell instills and the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation’s mission to help young Christian women.
“In my faith journey, I’ve done a lot missions work to rebuild houses in the Appalachian Mountains, which was super fun to me, and I got to meet some really amazing families,” she said. “But some of the [less fortunate] places I’ve been, you go there and you get a sense of — wow, this is their reality.
“Scholarships like this can help people in those situations and can help young women succeed in majors that they want to be in.”
Kara Hardee had to grow up quickly. Inconsistent parental influence led to her “living in a camper” with her father and taking on a maternal role for her younger siblings.
“It was really hard, because at school I wouldn’t have the nicest things and people would look at you funny. But [at Campbell], no one cares what you’re wearing,” she said. “Nobody’s looking at me differently or picking on me for what I’m wearing.”
Hardee, a freshman nursing major, is a first-generation college student like so many other Lettie Pate Whitehead scholars. Her decision to attend Campbell was initially hard on her father, who wanted her to attend community college close to Newberry, S.C. home and continue to help around the house, but Hardee said “he’s slowly coming around.”
Hardee, who in high school was looking for a school with a good nursing program, had a teacher recommend Campbell.
“She said Campbell was a really good school and that her son went there, and it had a great nursing program,” Hardee recalled. “So I applied and got accepted. Tuition was a little bit on the expensive side, to be honest. But with a lot of financial aid, especially the scholarships that I have earned, including [the Lettie Pate Whitehead Scholarship], it helped me like afford to come here.”
The Lettie Pate Whitehead Scholarship has historically made a large investment in nursing education to support students just like Hardee , a fact that was not lost on her.
“If Mrs. Whitehead was a alive today, I would thank her for giving me the opportunity to receive a scholarship in this career she cared about,” she said.
Shavannah Cartagena is a junior communications major who has a concentration in converged media, broadcasting and electronic media. Her major tells the story of exactly what she wants to do in her career, and Campbell already offers her the platform to do it.
“Right now I work for the AV/IT department,” Cartagena said. “So I do a lot of the streams for all the athletics on campus on ESPN, and now I’m working with athletics on content creation.”
She didn’t have her career aspirations figured out until well into her Campbell experience, but the immersive opportunities the program offered helped Cartagena find her calling.
“[Campbell] has a really good communications department,” she said. “It helped me want to be in the industry I’m in now. Before I just wanted to be a journalism major and maybe work for a fashion magazine. But my friend put me on to this on-campus streaming platform they do for sports, and I found out that this is cool.”
Like so many of her peers, Cartagena entered college with an advanced level of self-sufficiency due to childhood circumstances.
“I was raised by my grandmother. I didn’t really have my father in my life — not for a reason where, like, he left. He’s Hispanic, and there was a certain situation where he got deported,” she said. “My mother passed when I was very young. So I kind of had the mindset of having to solve things on my own. I felt that kind of made me driven to do certain things and always be the best at whatever I do at Campbell.”
Cartagena, a native of St. Pauls, North Carolina, expressed gratitude for the opportunity the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation has given her.
“I think if [Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans] was alive today, she would be very happy with the progress of women,” she said. “We’re striving for what we want, and we’re taking the necessary steps to get there, as difficult as it may be. The Foundation really helps with that process.”
College tuition can be difficult for families who have multiple children graduating high school at roughly the same time. That was the case for Campbell senior Elle Soistmann and her sister, born 16 months apart.
“When we were deciding on colleges, there was an issue with trying to find funding. So that’s a big reason I chose Campbell — because of the help I got from Campbell and the outside help I got from scholarships like the Lettie Pate Whitehead [Scholarship],” Soistmann said.
In fact, both Soistmann girls are Lettie Pate Whitehead recipients. Her sister attends the University of Virginia.
“My family is very appreciative of the Foundation,” she said. “My dad lost his job this past year, so these scholarships really helped us continue, because I was at a place where I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to come back this semester — which was really hard, because I only had one semester left.”
Fortunately, the financial aid she received from the Foundation allowed Soistmann, a communication studies major, to continue.
“We’re both graduating [this spring] and just looking forward to what comes next,” she said.
And what comes next for Soistmann is applying for graduate school, studying communications with a concentration in advocacy and social change.
“I’ve worked a lot with nonprofits in different internships ,and I love what they do. I love helping people to realize they have a voice.”
Soistmann said she ideally one day would like to be a communications coordinator or director for a nonprofit organization.
“It’s really a blessing for me to be here at Campbell with the opportunity for a future and have the funding from organizations such as [Lettie Pate Whitehead],” she said.