Inspired back then; moved to give now

By Hope Baptiste ’87

Charles P. (Charlie) Scheeler '78

Charles P. (Charlie) Scheeler ’78

Charles P. (Charlie) Scheeler ’78 never met Dean Smith in person, but the legendary coach had a profound effect on his life nevertheless.

As an undergraduate at UNC from 1974 to 1978, Scheeler experienced some of the most epic contests of Coach Smith’s career. Icons such as Phil Ford, Walter Davis, John Kuester and Al Wood lit up Carmichael Auditorium (pre-Dean Dome), where 12,000-plus Tar Heel faithful packed the bleachers to standing-room only just to be there to see a master tactician and basketball innovator work his magic.

While Coach Smith was a master at making something out of nothing (think four corners and the amazing comeback from eight points down with 17 seconds left in the game against arch rival Duke in 1974), Scheeler remembered so much more.

“Coach Smith taught so much more than Xs and Os and offense and defense,” Scheeler said. “I remember him always giving credit where credit is due, making sure to acknowledge the assist, staying so humble, teaching by example—instilling those life lessons that you don’t get in a classroom.”

“Through basketball, he was able to unite a large and diverse university, and he stood as the moral North Star of UNC at the time.”

>> Charlie Scheeler

Scheeler said he took those lessons with him when he graduated, along with some incredible memories and lifelong friendships. From Carolina to Harvard Law to high profile prosecutor to senior counsel at Baltimore’s Piper & Marbury, those guiding principles have been a mainstay for Scheeler ever since.

When Smith passed away in February, Scheeler made a point to watch the public memorial service held in the Smith Center and he was inspired once again, so much so that he made a $50,000 commitment to The Dean E. Smith Opening Doors Fund. With matching funds committed by the University, Scheeler’s gift, among the first major gifts to Opening Doors, is already at work helping undergraduates as they begin their Carolina experience and professional students in both the schools of social work and education earn their degrees.

And that’s exactly what Scheeler intended.

“Coach Smith was, at his very core, a teacher and shaper of young men,” Scheeler said. “He always taught team above self, stand up for others and always do the right thing. Through basketball, he was able to unite a large and diverse university, and he stood as the moral North Star of UNC at the time.”

What’s more, Scheeler said, Smith built bridges, forged lifelong relationships and forced others to re-evaluate their values and perspectives. Whether that was intentional is irrelevant, because that’s just who Smith was, not just something he did.

“Watching the memorial, it reminded me of the important role he, and we, play in the lives of students,” Scheeler said. “How could I not honor that?”

To this day, Scheeler and some of his closest Tar Heel friends get together every year for the ACC tournament, some great golf, ribs, a lot of laughs and great memories.

And basketball.