Our Mission

The Morehead-Cain Foundation’s mission is to identify, invest in, and empower a community of dynamic, purpose-driven leaders.

Scholar Impact

  • Since the Program began, 32 of UNC’s 36 Rhodes Scholars have been Morehead-Cain Scholars. Fourteen scholars have received the prestigious award to attend England’s Oxford University since 2000.
  • Five of Carolina’s past ten student body presidents have been Morehead-Cains.
  • Scholars have founded or co-founded dozens of well-known campus organizations, including Students for Students International, the a cappella groups the Clef Hangers and the Loreleis, and the UNC Dance Marathon.

Alumni Impact

  • Morehead-Cain Alumni serve their communities in all levels of government, including one sitting governor (Gov. Roy Cooper ’79, North Carolina) and four current or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • An alumnus led the team that completed the Human Genome Project, the effort to map and sequence all of the human DNA.
  • Morehead-Cains are pioneers in entrepreneurship; they founded, co-founded, or lead organizations recognized for changing the world including: Indiegogo, Ellevate and Ellevest Networks, GlobalGiving, Habitat for Humanity, M-KOPA Solar, and the National Institutes of Health.

The First Class of Four-year Morehead Scholars

The first class of four-year Morehead Scholars graduated from Carolina in 1957. Their impact was immediate. In 1962, the first of many scholars received the Rhodes Scholarship. The first Morehead Alumnus won an election to serve in the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1966. And three years later, the first British scholar joined the Program.

The following decades brought more innovation, progress, and firsts. Voters elected two Morehead Alumni to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972—the Program’s first alumni to serve in Congress. The trustees implemented the Summer Enrichment Program in 1974. A year later, women joined the Program. Carolina’s first international and female student body presidents were both Morehead Scholars.

The 1990s saw Morehead Alumni give back to the Foundation and University in new and meaningful ways. Alumni endowed a professorship on campus, contributed $3 million in support of Carolina’s bicentennial, and founded the Morehead Alumni Forum. As the alumni base grew, so too did their impact.

An act of profound generosity brought extraordinary change in 2007. The Gordon and Mary Cain Foundation, seeking to support young leaders to learn and grow, made a $100 million grant to the John Motley Morehead Foundation in the late Gordon Cain’s honor.

The Cain Grant allowed the creation of the Discovery Fund, Alumni-in-Residence and Alumni Speaker Series programs, and much more. It allowed the now Morehead-Cain Program to focus on sustaining, enhancing, and expanding the excellence of UNC-Chapel Hill.

The Morehead-Cain has served as a model for countless merit awards throughout the United States. These include the Jefferson Scholars Program (University of Virginia), Benjamin N. Duke Scholars Program (Duke University), and the Woodruff Scholars Program (Emory University).


Our Benefactors

John Motley Morehead III (1870–1965), native North Carolinian and founder of the John Motley Morehead Foundation, achieved international acclaim as a successful businessman, chemist, civil servant, engineer, inventor, and author.

Shortly after his graduation from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1891, Mr. Morehead and his father discovered acetylene gas while searching for an inexpensive method for manufacturing aluminum. He later developed an economical process for the manufacture of calcium carbide, laying the groundwork for the founding of Union Carbide Corporation. At the time of his death, Union Carbide had more than seventy-three thousand employees worldwide and produced more than six hundred products.

Mr. Morehead’s illustrious and varied career included the invention of an apparatus for analyzing gases, the publication of an authoritative book on that subject, a stint as mayor of Rye, New York, and service as envoy and minister to Sweden from 1930 to 1933.

Throughout his later life, Mr. Morehead gave generously to Carolina—one of his greatest loves. Together with Rufus Lenoir Patterson, Mr. Morehead donated the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower to the University in 1931. In 1945, he created the Morehead Foundation to provide funds for constructing the Morehead Building on campus and establishing the Morehead Scholarship, the first merit scholarship in the United States.

John Motley Morehead III died January 7, 1965.