After the recent retirement of Red Hat’s board of directors chairman, the company decided to honor his commitment to leadership and the community by donating $1 million to an NC State organization he established.
Established in 2002 by Henry Hugh Shelton, an NC State graduate and former general in the United States Army, the Shelton Leadership Center received a $1 million donation from Red Hat to go toward its program called the Shelton Challenge. According to Barbara Mulkey, director of the Shelton Leadership Center, Shelton valued leadership and wanted to create a program that could teach those values to students.
“General Shelton is all about values-based leadership,” Mulkey said. “His whole mission, really moving forward for the rest of his life is to promote values-based leadership to prepare the next generation of leaders, meaning primarily students.”
After Shelton’s retirement from Red Hat’s board of directors, Mulkey and other members of the Shelton Leadership Center’s staff spoke with Red Hat about honoring Shelton by donating to the Shelton Challenge, a leadership-based camp for high school students on NC State’s campus.
“We asked for a much smaller amount and so we were blown away when I got the email from Jim Whitehurst saying Red Hat was going to write us a check for a million dollars,” Mulkey said.
The Shelton Challenge is a week-long summer program that helps ninth through twelfth graders establish values-based leadership skills and learn to work with others.
“We spend a lot of time in the beginning trying to help a student really contemplate their own leadership style and their values,” Mulkey said. “Then they get a chance to serve in a leadership role for one of the activities, and the other interesting thing that we do is we talk a lot about how to follow when you aren’t the leader.”
Red Hat is a company headquartered in Raleigh that develops open-source software. Melanie Chernoff, government and community affairs senior manager for Red Hat, said that Shelton was a prominent member in the Red Hat community and the company wanted to donate the money to honor him upon his retirement.
“It’s important when you see leaders of this caliber in the community, that we find ways not only to honor them but how do we emulate them,” Chernoff said. “We felt that this was in particular a great way for us to ensure that values-based leadership will continue for future generations.”
According to Chernoff, Red Hat typically donates money to organizations through their corporate giving program, but the retirement of Shelton called for an exception.
“In general, we do have a corporate giving program where we support nonprofits in areas in STEM education, science, technology, engineering, and math, and basic needs like hunger and homelessness and other community organizations,” Chernoff said. “We had already been a donor with [the Shelton Leadership Center] for several years, but with the retirement of our chair who had been on the board for 14 years, we really wanted to do something special to honor him and his legacy so that’s how this donation came about.”
Chernoff said the company finds importance in investing in the community and it is one of the reasons they donate to local organizations.
“We are part of the community and we have to invest in the community,” Chernoff said. “Our employees, our associates as we like to call them, we all live here, we work here, we all play here and so it’s important for us as a company to support the organizations that we feel are making the community drive.”
In the case of the Shelton Leadership Center, the $1 million donation will go toward further development of the Shelton Fellowship Program. The money will go towards paying staff who work the camps, stability of the program, and helping students afford to attend the camp.
“Students do pay to go to this camp but we try to keep it extremely low in cost compared to some other similar camps because General Shelton always wanted to make sure it was affordable for students,” Mulkey said. “But even at our rates, some students can’t afford it so we give scholarships, so that’s another way that donations help us.”
While the donation from Red Hat is large, Mulkey said that it does not fully endow the program, which is one of her goals as director.
“It doesn’t fully endow the program, and that’s really what we want to do,” Mulkey said. “I would say a million dollars gets us about half the way there and with another million, we’ll be able to fully endow that program, so it’s very exciting to us.”
More information about the Shelton Leadership Center can be located on its website.