Laing Family Endows Scholarship for Poole Students in Need
By Lea Hart
Russell (’80) and Allison Laing started dating in high school and continued throughout college – he at North Carolina State University and she at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Back in the late ‘70s, when Highway 54 was the only way to get back and forth between Raleigh and Chapel Hill, the two rode the bus to see each other.
They married just after college in 1980 and raised two daughters. They worked together for more than three decades as well, growing a successful, award-winning tractor trailer sales and leasing business in the Raleigh area that Allison’s father had started.
It was a typical house divided. His brother also graduated NC State, while her brother graduated UNC-Chapel Hill. When their daughter, Brooke Laing Reid (’08), chose to attend NC State as well, Allison joked she had to go to her side of the family to find any support for the Tarheels. Their daughter, Casey Laing, graduated Western Carolina in 2013.
The Laings sold their business in 2012 and stayed on at the company for a few years after that. Upon retiring several years ago, they reflected on how fortunate they’d been not only in their family and careers, but also in having the support of their own families when they started their journey in college.
“We were fortunate that our parents were able to put us through college,” Russell said. “They paid for our room and board, but we both had jobs during college as well.
“We had been raised that way, with a good work ethic we learned from our parents and grandparents.”
Russell was the first in his family to complete a four-year degree at a major university, and Allison’s parents had not gone to college themselves.
“We know the value of an education and what it does for generations,” Russell said.
It’s why they decided to endow the Laing Family Scholarship, a need-based scholarship to be awarded to undergraduate students in the Poole College of Management. The Laings said they recognized that many students pay for their own college educations. They hope to make an impact on the lives of those students who need extra financial support to attend college.
The couple chose to support Poole College, where Russell had received his undergraduate degree in business and economics when it was then the College of Management. At the same time, they made an identical gift to UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School in support of students at Allison’s alma mater.
Both of our families have been very giving of their time and their finances. We wanted to be able to offer that to those whose families can’t.
“Both of our families have been very giving of their time and their finances,” Allison said. “We wanted to be able to offer that to those whose families can’t.”
It’s also about affording students all of the opportunities that come with attending college – both in the classroom and outside of the classroom, she said. College provides a time to learn important personal and interpersonal skills as students navigate living on their own, adjusting to roommates and coming to terms with their own goals and values. It’s also about building relationships for the future, Russell said.
“We still have really good relationships with high school friends and college friends,” he said. “College has a lifelong impact, not just from a work perspective but also a life perspective.”
The two know from Brooke’s experience, as well as having the opportunity to recruit and hire students from NC State and Poole College over the years, that students today have great focus and direction. The Laings say they’re excited to support that.
“The kids coming out of there are just amazing,” Russell said. “We’ve seen the end-product that State is producing.”
The Laing’s gift to the two universities speaks to their already giving nature, instilled in them by their own families. Allison is also an advocate and supporter of the nonprofit, Dress for Success, while Russell is a volunteer and current board chairman of Veterans Life Center of North Carolina. Giving back is something they encourage others to think about as well.
I would say look at your blessings in life, whatever they might be, and see how you can use those blessings to impact other people.
“I would say look at your blessings in life, whatever they might be, and see how you can use those blessings to impact other people,” Allison said. “It doesn’t have to be in a large dollar sign way – there are other ways to help.”
In giving back to Poole, Russell said he knows the type of impact the college and NC State will have on those students, driving them on to serve their communities in the future.
“To be able to support young people with the opportunity to learn and grow; to take that next step in their careers and their lives,” he said. “They’ll go on to do good things as well, so it just perpetuates itself.”