The 2022-23 academic year has had a great start at the University of South Carolina’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, thanks in part to the arrival of the newest cohort of Tepper Scholars. The four freshmen join the top-ranked Department of Sport and Entertainment Management and its most prestigious scholarship program.
Created in 2020, The David and Nicole Tepper Scholars Program recruits the best and brightest sport and entertainment management students and enriches their education opportunities, and ultimately their careers. The Teppers own the Carolina Panthers NFL team, Charlotte FC MLS team and Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. They are active philanthropists and strong supporters of access to education.
South Carolina Tepper Scholars are selected based on academic merit with an emphasis on supporting student diversity and first-generation students. Todd Hardy, Sydney Rhue, Jeremiah Smith and Kelsey Smith are the program’s third cohort.
The Tepper Scholars program will provide half their tuition for four years as undergraduate students. In addition, they will benefit from direct mentorship and career development opportunities with the Tepper Foundation and Tepper Sports and Entertainment.
"The vision for the Tepper Scholars program is to mentor and manage each cohort that comes in to really grow and be so involved in the business and really take these experiences that we offer them and bring them out into the real world," says Nicole Tepper.
David Tepper poses for a photo with Tepper Scholars Program members Todd Hardy, Jeremiah Smith and Sydney Rhue prior to the Carolina Panthers hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022.
David Tepper shakes hands with one of the new Tepper Scholars Program members Sydney Rhue prior to the Carolina Panthers hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022.
Todd Hardy is one of the newest Tepper Scholars, but already an experienced leader. As a high school student, he served as student body president and football team captain while maintaining an outstanding 4.20 GPA. His other accomplishments include being selected for Palmetto Boys State, a career development program for young men interested in learning more about government and politics. He also volunteered and worked while in high school, including a job at a local sport complex and restaurant. His volunteer service includes The Carpenter’s Table, which is a food pantry serving people in need in Spartanburg County.
Hardy has enjoyed sports as a player and a fan throughout his life, and as the time to make a college decision approached, he learned he could turn that passion into a career.
"I realized I can make a living in sports not with a ball, but with a tie," he says. He has received constant support from his parents and worked to earn the Tepper Scholarship with them in mind.
"My parents have invested so much, monetarily and otherwise, in me throughout my life. They’ve attended every church service, game, and event I’ve been a part of, and they have funded all my ambitions. I want to try my best to pay back even a small portion of the love they have extended to me," he says.
Sydney Rhue’s academic performance would catch the attention of any college recruiter. She earned a 5.21 GPA as a student at Dutch Fork High School and was named an AP Scholar of Distinction in 2021. She served for two years on the Dutch Fork High School Student Council and volunteered at Harvest Hope Food Bank. She also served as a member of the house of representatives for the ALA Palmetto Girls State mock government.
Her interest in the dynamic of players and management led her to choose sport and entertainment management as her major, and she is grateful for the Tepper Scholarship, which she says will allow her to continue her excellence in and out of the classroom.
"This award will allow me to spend more time focusing not only on my academic career but also my community and the impact I could have on it," she says. "This award will allow me to explore avenues of volunteering and community service."
West Columbia, S.C.
Jeremiah Smith has always loved football, but as he puts it, "I never felt it loved me back. No matter how hard I worked, I was never an elite athlete."
As a student at Airport High School, he graduated with a 3.99 GPA and was selected for the National Society of High School Scholars. He also received the Columbia Urban League Young and Gifted Award in 2022 and was also selected for the Myrdis Walker Scholars Program.
While in high school he stayed active in his community, volunteering as an assistant coach for the Kountry Boys 7on7 football team and participating in the Swansea Mentoring Program. Smith also demonstrated his work ethic in a professional setting, working for a year in his local grocery store before getting a position in his senior year with Nephron Pharmaceutical Corporation.
He attended an information session hosted by the College of HRSM where he learned about degree and scholarship opportunities.
"When I learned of the educational and networking opportunities I would be provided, I knew it was where I was destined to be," says Smith. "The program will give me the best chance of accomplishing my dream of working for an NFL front office one day."
The chance to be a Tepper Scholar is all the more special to Smith, a lifelong fan of the Carolina Panthers. He says one of his favorite childhood memories is the day his father took him to a Panthers game and receiver Kelvin Benjamin gave him the football after scoring a touchdown.
Management is in Kelsey Smith’s blood. Her grandfather and great uncle are both business owners. "Ever since I was little I was always at their businesses helping out and running around," she says.
They sparked her interest in business, and taking a class in sport and entertainment management marketing as a high school sophomore led to her choice to focus on that field as she prepared for college.
Smith is a hard worker who loves school and graduated with an outstanding GPA. She served as a cheer coach for Cumberland Valley Youth Cheerleading Association for three years and also held part time jobs with Target and a local firework wholesaler while earning her high school diploma.
Smith hopes to excel in college and boost others as she launches her own career.
"College is really important to me and I really want to succeed," she says. "I have always been one to help others or speak up when others couldn’t."
The David and Nicole Tepper Scholars Program will invite applications in early 2023 for fall 2023 incoming freshmen. Students interested in applying must be admitted to South Carolina’s sport and entertainment management program. More information is available by visiting the Tepper Scholars Program page on our website.