SPARTANBURG, S.C. — The founding owner of the Carolina Panthers football team and prominent Carolinas businessman Jerome "Jerry" Richardson has given $150 million dollars to the Wofford College Endowment. The gift is the largest in the South Carolina college’s history and is designated for the endowment with a focus on need-based scholarships and experiences for Wofford students.
Richardson is a graduate of Wofford and has often credited his time spent there with helping him succeed in business and in the NFL.
The $150 million brings Richardson's total commitment to the liberal arts college to over $262.6 million -- one of the largest individual commitments ever to a US college or university.
The endowment gift will focus on these four areas:
- Need-based financial aid that will affect hundreds of students each year.
- Off-campus U.S. and global study opportunities, student and faculty research, internships and entrepreneurial learning opportunities.
- An initiative to transition all of the college’s support staff to a minimum wage of $15 per hour.
- A special fund for the maintenance, repair and improvement of campus buildings.
“Mr. Richardson’s loyalty to Wofford College and his commitment to the student experience have been a constant since he came to Spartanburg from Fayetteville, N.C., on a modest football scholarship in 1954,” said Wofford President Nayef Samhat. “After he graduated, he gave even when he had very little to give, and throughout his life’s journey, he has remembered his alma mater without fail. This gift is Mr. Richardson once again changing the game for Wofford College students, and we are forever grateful for his love of our college and the countless ways this gift will impact our students, our community and ultimately our world.”
According to provided reports, Richardson enrolled at Wofford in 1954 on a football scholarship. He was named an Associated Press Little America selection in 1957 and 1958 and still holds three records as a wide receiver for the Terrier football team. He still calls being elected team captain in 1958 as one of his greatest lifetime honors. In 1983, he was chosen to Wofford’s All-Time Football team as a receiver. The college retired his jersey No. 51 in 2011.
Richardson was drafted in the 13th round by the NFL Baltimore Colts after his junior year, but stayed to finish his degree and complete his college football career with the Terriers. After graduation, Richardson played two seasons in the NFL, earning Colt Rookie of the Year honors in 1959 and catching a touchdown pass in the 1959 Championship game from Johnny Unitas.
After football, Richardson and Wofford teammate Charlie Bradshaw became business partners, opening the first Hardee’s franchise in Spartanburg and cofounding Spartan Food Systems. Richardson later was the CEO of Flagstar, which was the sixth largest food service company in the nation.
Never too far from the game, on Oct. 26, 1993, Richardson became the first former NFL player since George Halas to become an owner when the Carolinas were unanimously awarded the NFL's 29th franchise. The Carolina Panthers began play in 1995 and reached the NFC Championship game in the 1996 season. The Panthers won the NFC Championship in 2003 and 2015, advancing to Super Bowls XXVIII and 50.
Richardson is the only person to be inducted into both the North Carolina and South Carolina Business and Athletic Halls of Fame.