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Nicole Tepper delivers keynote address, as first Tepper Scholars graduate

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CHARLOTTE— "Over your time at USC, you have experienced the best that our education system has to offer. You've learned from expert faculty in state-of-the-art facilities, surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the field. Some of you have grown from first-year novices to eager, young professionals proficient in a whole new field of expertise. Others have grown from that proficiency level to experts in their own right. No matter what, both are able to take those lessons you've learned into this next phase of your life."

That was what Nicole Tepper said Friday, while delivering her remarks to approximately 400 graduates and guests at the University of South Carolina's College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management (HRSM) Hooding and Cording Ceremony.

Tepper was invited to honor the graduates (undergrad, graduate and PhD) and share the importance of higher education, while also recognizing the inaugural graduating class of Tepper Scholars. As the first class of graduates received their hoods and cords with Tepper in attendance, a dream more than four years in the making hit a milestone.

"To my Tepper Scholars… These four amazing students will remain near and dear to me for the rest of my life, not only as the inaugural graduating class of Tepper Scholars but also because they epitomize what this university, and specifically the College of Hospitality, Retail, and Sport Management, are all about. Their brilliance and ingenuity are reflective of the entire group of graduates gathered here today, and I'm so proud of all of you."

Since 2020, the Tepper Scholars Program has awarded merit-based four-year scholarships to four incoming sport and entertainment management freshmen each year at the University of South Carolina. While it is a scholarship program at its core, David and Nicole Tepper's vision for the initiative and its impact is far more expansive. During their time in the College of HRSM, program participants receive ongoing personal mentorship from Nicole Tepper and team executives, hands-on internship opportunities with Tepper Sports & Entertainment through the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Football Club organizations, and other exclusive enrichment opportunities – all in addition to substantial tuition assistance.

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Friday night saw the first four graduates of the Tepper Scholars Program begin their commencement activities, and Nicole Tepper was on-hand to see her vision for the program truly come to fruition.

"There are no words to adequately express how incredible this inaugural class is and how much this group means to me, my family, and so many others," said Tepper. "David and I have always been passionate about higher education and particularly about extending education resources and avenues to the best and brightest. We are so proud to support the next generation of leaders across the sport and entertainment management landscape, fostering their enthusiasm for learning and helping them to prepare for future careers in this competitive, rewarding field. We're humbled to play even a small part in starting the members of our incredibly talented cohort on their career and life journeys."

The inaugural class of Tepper Scholar graduates are Madelin McLean, Jordan Mooring, Devon Watson and Hannah Margeson. Following the ceremony, the Teppers hosted a private dinner reception in the Presidential Dining Room at the USC Alumni Center. Each graduate, along with their families and guests, talked with Nicole and USC staff about their experiences, expressing their gratitude for the support they have received throughout their time in the program, and beyond.

"Working with Mr. and Mrs. Tepper has been such a unique opportunity," said McLean. "They're always willing to lend an ear if we need advice, and they're always going to be our number ones fans supporting us no matter what we do."

The graduates intend to take all they've learned, both in school and through the hands-on experience and mentorship offered by the Tepper Scholars Program, to now pursue careers in the sports and entertainment industry.

"When I came into college, I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn't necessarily know how to get there," said Watson. "I didn't know what life after college was going to look like. Now I feel like I have a clear picture. The program hasn't just shaped my experience, it's been my experience."

Beyond the mentorship and career development, the program has also helped to create a sense of camaraderie and support within its members, as they look to tackle challenges together and face their next steps head on.

"This program has started a community at the University of South Carolina," said Mooring. "It's given me people that I can lean on and connections."

The Tepper Scholars Program seeks to support the best and brightest students who are committed to furthering their education, and ultimately their careers, in the field of sport and entertainment management. The University of South Carolina's Department of Sport and Entertainment Management is a world leader in providing top-ranked degree programs and innovative research.

"Sport and entertainment management is an exciting, growing field that is constantly changing and evolving, so we'll need leaders who are adaptive, enthusiastic, relentless, and passionate. The industry is in good hands with Maddi, Devon, Jordan, and Hannah and I can't wait to watch how much they accomplish in the years to come."

As the first class of Tepper Scholars receives their diplomas and enters the workforce, the impact of the Tepper Scholars program is only beginning.

"We're so excited about what the future holds for the Tepper Scholars Program, as we work to continue supporting the next generation of leaders in the field of sport and entertainment management through funding, mentorship programs, and enrichment opportunities," said Tepper.

This week in Charlotte, Tepper's words will again be put to action, as students from the 3rd cohort embark on their internships with Tepper Sports & Entertainment, continuing their own journeys as part of this unique, impactful program.

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