Morehead-Cain Foundation welcomes new WNC scholars

Press release from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

The Morehead-Cain Foundation, home of the first merit scholarship program in the United States, founded at the nation’s first public university, is proud to announce its class of 2023.

This fall, Morehead-Cain will welcome 75 new Morehead-Cain Scholars from across North Carolina, the U.S. and the world to UNC-Chapel Hill. The class of 2023 includes:

  • 35 scholars from North Carolina
  • 40 scholars from outside North Carolina, including:
    • 30 scholars from 22 different states and Washington, D.C.
    • 4 scholars from the United Kingdom
    • 3 scholars from Canada*
    • 1 scholar each from Costa Rica, Germany and Hong Kong*

* Scholar either attended high school in listed country or is from listed country

The Morehead-Cain Scholarship covers all expenses for four years of undergraduate study at UNC-Chapel Hill. It also features a distinctive program of summer enrichment experiences designed to stretch students beyond their comfort zones. Scholars learn and grow throughout their four summers. They have opportunities to complete an outdoor leadership course, work in teams on problems facing cities throughout North America, work with organizations around the globe and gain professional experience that helps launch their careers.

The Summer Enrichment Program is complemented by the Morehead-Cain Discovery Fund. Scholars are encouraged to deeply explore their interests, whether those involve studying under celebrated artists, attending leadership retreats or obtaining wilderness first responder certification, for which they receive financial support. From researching food and agriculture industries in Iceland to examining the impact of innovation and entrepreneurship in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, Morehead-Cain Scholars have the resources to pursue educational opportunities wherever they may find them.

As set out in the program’s founding documents, selection criteria for the Morehead-Cain are leadership, moral force of character, academic achievement and physical vigor. Morehead-Cain recipients are chosen solely on the basis of merit and accomplishment.

More than 270 Morehead-Cain Scholars study on campus, making outstanding contributions across the full range of University life. From student government to community service to the performing arts, Morehead-Cain Scholars play a prominent role in Carolina’s vibrant student community. For example, during the past 10 years, five student body presidents, five student attorneys general and five honor court chairs have been Morehead-Cains.

Since 2000, 14 Morehead-Cain Scholars have won Rhodes Scholarships to England’s Oxford University, one of the world’s most competitive and prestigious awards for graduate study. Since the first Morehead Scholars graduated from Carolina in 1957, 31 of UNC-Chapel Hill’s 34 Rhodes Scholars have been Morehead-Cain Scholars.

Morehead-Cains have accounted for 27 of the University’s 40 Luce Scholars, eight of its 17 Marshall Scholars and 19 of Carolina’s 30 Truman Scholars, among the nation’s most generous and distinguished awards for graduate study. Twenty-seven Morehead-Cain Scholars have won Fulbright Fellowships, three have won Gates Cambridge Scholarships for graduate study at the University of Cambridge in England and four have received the Schwarzman Scholarship, an elite China-based graduate scholarship that enrolled its first students in 2016. One alumnus is among the inaugural class of the prestigious Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program at Stanford University.

Founded in 1945, the Morehead-Cain has been a model for countless merit scholarships throughout the U.S. These include the University of Virginia’s Jefferson Scholars program, Duke University’s Benjamin N. Duke Scholars Program, and Emory University’s Woodruff Scholars program.

For more information, visit or call the Foundation at (919) 962-1201. Portraits of scholarship recipients can be downloaded at

Class of 2023

New Morehead-Cain Scholars are listed below alphabetically by North Carolina county, state and country. Students noted with an asterisk (*) are listed in more than one location.

Buncombe County

Ilyas James Colie will graduate this spring from Asheville High School in Asheville. Ilyas has organized service events for the YMCA Leaders Club and coordinated volunteers for the Women’s March. Ilyas participates in a youth development organization in France and helped organize an event for 14 French towns where he taught children environmental habits to save marine life. He enjoys scuba diving with his dad, participates on a competitive soccer team in France and runs every day. He is interested in studying international business and interpersonal and organizational communications. Ilyas is the son of James and Zahia Colie of Asheville.

Grayson Spencer Sword will graduate this spring from the Asheville School in Asheville, where she is student chair of the honor council, one of the school’s highest honors. Grayson also serves as a volunteer and ambassador with Students Shoulder-to-Shoulder, a nonprofit that promotes ethical leadership through work with local nongovernmental organizations during service trips. She paints, plays soccer, runs cross-country and swims. Grayson is excited to study chemistry and political science. She is the daughter of William and Janet Sword of Asheville.

McDowell County

Hayden Christopher Vaughn will graduate this spring from McDowell High School in Marion, where he was the first sophomore ever chosen to be the marching band drum major. Hayden is a volunteer tutor for middle schoolers, a state-ranked Science Olympiad competitor and a participant in the Lake James Environmental Association. Hayden also owns and operates his own business working as a DJ. At Carolina, he is interested in studying genetics and molecular biology. Hayden is the son of Chris and Missy Vaughn of Nebo.

Transylvania County

Cullen Stuart Duval will graduate this spring from Brevard High School in Brevard, where he is student body president, co-captain of the varsity soccer team, an all-state tennis player, president of the Future Business Leaders of America chapter and vice president of the National Honor Society. Through the TIME Science Research Program, Cullen researched mosquito-borne diseases for two years. He also has interned with the Transylvania County Administration and volunteers with the Little River 4-H program. At Carolina, Cullen is interested in studying business. He is the son of Kevin and Julie Duval of Brevard.

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