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New Scholarship at Catawba College Targets Rising Seniors Majoring in Business

May 09, 2006

Category: Academics, Alumni, Business & Economics, Students


Rising seniors majoring in business administration at Catawba College will be eligible for a new scholarship established by William E. '53 and Virginia Samuels of West End, N.C.

The William E. and Virginia Samuels Endowed Scholarship will both recognize and provide financial assistance for a rising senior business major who both demonstrates leadership ability and was on Catawba's Dean’s List during his or her junior year.

Catawba College Senior Vice President Tom Childress praised the Samuels for their decades of support for the institution. "Bill is an alumnus of whom we're extremely proud," Childress said. "He built a solid career in banking, but he is best known for his strength of character and his integrity."

Samuels, a retired banker who majored in business while a student at Catawba, said what he learned in college "set the tone for what I ran into later out in the world."   Upon graduating from Catawba, he explained, "the last thing I wanted to do was to go into banking, but I did, and I found a home in banking."

Before he launched his banking career, however, he was drafted to serve in the U.S. Army for two years, stationed at Ft. Bragg. When he was discharged in 1955, he went to work as a Scout Executive in Laurinburg. It was in 1958, that he joined Southern National Bank after it established a branch in Laurinburg. In 1962, he transferred to the Southern Pines office where he worked as chief executive officer.

In 1967, Samuels joined the Southern Pines Savings and Loan where he stayed until 2000. During those 33 years, the bank changed its name three times before it finally merged with First Bank. In 1967, it had just three employees, one office, and four million dollars in assets. But at the time of its merger with First Bank in 2000, the bank had 48 employees, six offices and $330 million dollars in assets with Samuels serving as its chairman of the board. Samuels retired from the bank board in April of this year.

"Banking became more sophisticated the longer I stayed in the business," Samuels explained. "Things became more and more computerized and automated, but the basic principles of banking which I learned in college are still the same."

The Samuels, who have been married for 31 years, are active members of Brownson Presbyterian Church where they originally met. They have served as Deacons, Elders, Sunday School Teachers, Circle Leaders and Committee chairmen. Mr. Samuels has been an officer, director or trustee in the Southern Pines School System, the Sandhills Community College, St. Joseph Hospital, Easter Seal Society, Little League, Boy Scouting, N.C. Bankers, Southern Pines Rotary Club, Moore County Foundation, Moore County Chamber of Commerce and Pinecrest High School.

As a tribute to his standing in his community, Samuels was selected by the Moore County Boy Scouts of America in 2004 as the Moore County Citizen of the Year. In 2006, the Southern Pines Kiwanis Club presented him with its prestigious annual Sandhills Builders Cup.

Samuels grew up in Hamlet where he was involved in both scouting and athletics. In scouting, he reached the level of Eagle Scout, and in athletics, he earned letters in baseball, football and basketball. He actually came to Catawba with two friends from Hamlet to play football and did so during his freshman year. He then switched to tennis which he played during his sophomore and junior years. At Catawba, he was a member and secretary of the Advertising Club and enjoyed and participated in intramural athletics.

Mrs. Samuels, a native of Rockingham, worked for 26 years in the insurance and real estate field. She owned an insurance agency for several years before merging it with another company and becoming office manager and chief financial officer of the new firm. She, as her husband, has been active in scouting and schools.
The Samuels are parents of five children and 10 grandchildren.