Darragh Scholars program – the best scholarship you’ve never heard of?

A lesser-known scholarship at East Carolina University valued at up to $100,000 aims to attract high achieving students on par with North Carolina State’s Park Scholarship and the Morehead-Cain Scholarship at UNC Chapel Hill.

The Gordon Darragh Leadership Scholars Program provides a merit-based, four-year scholarship that covers tuition, fees, room and board, and emphasizes leadership development with the goal of enhancing the overall image of the university.

The scholarship’s namesake, Gordon Darragh, is a retired Greenville resident with a passion for supporting students. He said he hopes his scholarship helps attract the greatest talent to ECU.

“I didn’t realize how competitive it was to attract the top students in the state,” Darragh said. “It’s a lot like recruiting for football or basketball. It’s about what you can offer.”

One thing that distinguishes the Darragh scholarship from the Park or Morehead-Cain is that if a student decides to pursue a master’s degree at ECU, the scholarship will cover tuition, books and fees for that as well, Darragh said.

The Gordon Darragh scholarship program, now in its third year, requires students to maintain a minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA, participate in an annual alternative break experience trip with the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement and live on campus for the duration of the scholarship. The student selected each year participates in the Jarvis Leadership Living-Learning Community and completes the ECU Leads program.

Left to right, Erin Mackey, Makayla Harris, and Madison Weeks work at the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement.

Left to right, Erin Mackey, Makayla Harris, and Madison Weeks work at the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement.

Erin Mackey, the first Gordon Darragh scholar, hadn’t even heard of the scholarship three years ago. She found out about it when she was invited to interview for the spot.

“I felt very honored that I had been chosen for such an amazing scholarship, and was all the more enthusiastic about starting my journey at ECU,” she said.

Since receiving the scholarship, Mackey has worked as the Student Leadership Assistant in the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement, served as the president of ECU’s Design and Production Club and participated in two different alternative break experiences.

For 2018 Darragh Scholar Makayla Harris, the scholarship was an opportunity that she couldn’t pass up. While ECU was one of the colleges she was considering, it became her top choice when she was awarded the Darragh scholarship.

“College can become a financial burden and I did not want that to weigh on me or my family,” Harris said. “I felt a close connection to this scholarship and I worked hard for it. Actually being seen as someone who was worthy enough to receive it, I am honored.”

As a freshman biology major with a passion for conservation, Harris plans to join a club focused on the environment and become a mentor for the Jarvis Living Learning Community.

Sophomore Darragh Scholar Madison Weeks said the leadership opportunities are also a big asset of the scholarship. She is a mentor for ECU Leads and traveled to Northern Ireland last year for an international alternative break experience.

“This scholarship means giving back to my school and developing my leadership skills so that I can be an ambassador of ECU Leads, the CLCE, and ECU as a whole,” Weeks said.

Darragh added that he hopes the leadership component of his scholarship results in graduates who are successful and able to change their communities for the better.

Darragh is the president of the Darragh Foundation, which was started in 1998 by his parents, Richard and Mildred Darragh. Richard Darragh, a first-generation college student from Canada, earned a master’s and Ph.D. in biochemistry from Cornell. He became a food scientist for Procter & Gamble, helping the company develop blockbuster products like Jif peanut butter and Pringles chips.

The foundation has funded scholarships at numerous colleges and universities over the years, but the majority of the money for scholarships is now focused on eastern North Carolina, Gordan Darragh said.

“I believe so strongly in ECU. It’s a great place and I want everyone to know it,” he added.

For more information about the Gordon Darragh Leadership Scholars Program visit