Thanks 10 Million
In 1967 Gary, who had spent part of his childhood traveling the South with his parents and 10 siblings doing stoop labor in the sugarcane and vegetable fields, applied for a football scholarship at Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Fla. He was turned down on the final cut. Back home in Indiantown, a determined Gary begged his high-school coach for advice. The coach, Louis Rice, had one idea: Take the bus to Shaw, where an old friend was coach, and hope for the best. By Sunday, Gary was on the road. In Raleigh he walked the 16 blocks to school, suitcase in hand. There the coach took a look at the 5'7" Gary and said: "Leave, son. Go home."
"I don't have the money," Gary told him, truthfully.
Gary stayed—and made the team when one of the roster players was injured. Shaw administrators then streamlined the admission process, waived the $10 enrollment fee and and got him a scholarship. "That was the day I won in life because I refused to give up," he says.
In 1974 Gary got his law degree from North Carolina Central University in Durham. He and his wife, Gloria, whom he had met in second grade, moved back to Florida and now live in a luxury home on exclusive Sewall's Point, just 30 miles from Indiantown. His law firm, Gary; Williams & Parenti, bills $40 million to $50 million a year. He also owns a string of local businesses.
"Shaw was about making it possible for black boys and girls who felt left out, giving them encouragement to believe in themselves," says Gary. "That's why giving back to Shaw is easy. I was at the end of the line. The people there helped me. The $10 million is a small down payment on the debt I owe Shaw."