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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- UNC Charlotte will honor Sandra and Leon Levine with honorary degrees at the university's spring commencement on May 15 for their philanthropic contributions in the Charlotte community and longstanding support for higher education.

The Levines are being awarded honorary degrees of Doctor of Public Service for their numerous acts of public service and philanthropy. Most recently, their foundation established the Levine Scholars Program, a merit scholarship, which will enable UNC Charlotte to recruit exceptional student-leaders from around the United States.

Leon Levine is the founder of Matthews, N.C.-based Family Dollar Stores, Inc. He and his wife Sandra are involved in a number of civic and charitable causes in the Charlotte region through the Leon Levine Foundation.

Sandra and Leon Levine epitomize the phrase, 'Paying it Forward,' Chancellor Philip L. Dubois said. Their endeavors on behalf of our state, our region and our community are, frankly, much too numerous to list.

Initially valued at $9.3 million, the Leon Levine Foundation is funding the largest individual gift commitment in UNC Charlotte s history.

In February, 43 Levine Scholars Program finalists, selected from more than 1,000 applicants for the scholarship, visited the UNC Charlotte campus. They included nine students from the Charlotte region and others from as far away as Kansas and New Hampshire.

We were overwhelmed by the number of extraordinary students from around the country who applied for these scholarships, said Dubois. These students are also being recruited by other outstanding universities. Because of this new merit scholarship program, they are finding UNC Charlotte offers excellent opportunities in a wide variety of academic disciplines.

The 15 recipients of the scholarships will be announced later this spring.

Al Maisto, associate dean for the Honors College and interim director for the Levine Scholars Program, said the idea to start the new scholarship program derived from the Levine family s ongoing efforts to give back to the Charlotte community.

The goal is to cultivate new leaders, selected from top students both statewide and across the nation, at UNC Charlotte, he said. We want them to use their academic prowess, leadership skills, dedication to community service, and business talents right here in the Charlotte community.

Leon Levine s vision is to foster a commitment among the Levine Scholars to community service and a capacity for what he calls ethical leadership.

The program has been compared with the esteemed Morehead-Cain Scholars at UNC Chapel Hill, Park Scholars at North Carolina State University and Benjamin N. Duke Scholars at Duke. The value for in-state students will be about $90,000 and about $140,000 for out-of-state students.

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