NCCU professor, her father give back to alma mater with endowed scholarship

Posted February 24, 2022, 5:31PM
Siobahn Day Grady, Ph.D., assistant professor of information sciences and father, Sherwin Thomas Day

As a child, Siobahn Day Grady, Ph.D., spent ample time with her father playing video games and watching movies and sports.

“I was a huge tomboy growing up,” says Grady, an assistant professor of information sciences at North Carolina Central University (NCCU). “We went fishing and did anything you can think of.”

Grady earned her master’s degree in information science from NCCU in 2009. Her father earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from NCCU in 1985. They are the first father-daughter duo to endow a scholarship at NCCU. Titled, the Pinnix-Brown Endowed Scholarship, it was created in memory of Champion “Champ” Hudson Pinnix and Chestina Brown Pinnix, Grady’s paternal grandparents.

“As we’re both graduates of this institution, and I’m a member of the faculty, it’s important that the students know someone who invests in the university, not only as a faculty member, but with giving back as well,” Grady said.

Day attributes the scholarship to his mother, who always stressed education.

“After I got my bachelor’s degree, she always said that wasn’t enough. ‘What about your child? And what about the children you don’t even know?’” he explained.

Grady and Day established the scholarship in fall 2021 to preserve their family legacy and to give back to NCCU, an institution that has given so much to them.

“I want this scholarship to be something people can relate to,” Grady explained. “We’re a daughter and father who attended the university and have a lot of love for the institution and for each other. This was our opportunity to give back to the university and hopefully impact STEM students to come.”

The scholarship is open to undergraduate students majoring in a STEM field and graduate students who plan to earn a master’s degree in the School of Library and Information Sciences.

“Because those departments helped my father and me see the best in ourselves and finish our programs, we want to give back to them and also add the other STEM fields such as science, technology and engineering,” Grady said.

How It All Began

Grady knew the importance of education at an early age. Her father graduated from NCCU, her mother, Mary Day, graduated from Durham Technical Community College with a degree in library science, and her paternal grandmother, though a single mother of six, attended Watts School of Nursing in Durham and became a licensed practical nurse.

“Growing up, I had two people who were in the technology field, and we had all of the devices in our home,” she said. “That might not seem like a lot, but this was in the 1980s when technology wasn’t really affordable. I was very fortunate to have all of that technology in my home, and I thank God for that.”

Grady followed in her father’s HBCU footsteps, attending Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), where she earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science, before going to NCCU and, later, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (N.C. A&T), where she became the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in computer science. She is included in the Smithsonian Institution’s #IfThenSheCan exhibit, a collection of 120 life-sized, 3D-printed statues of women in STEM, and the largest of women statues ever assembled.

She established the Dr. Siobahn C. Day Endowed Scholarship at WSSU in honor of her parents, to support economically disadvantaged students who aspire to work in computing.

She always knew she’d establish an endowed scholarship at NCCU, and after her father learned about it, he wanted to partner with her. When Day was an NCCU student, Dr. William Fletcher, chair of the mathematics and physics department, made a lasting impression on him.

“He took a lot of time with us students and explained that nothing was beyond our reach,” Day recalled. “He always preached excellence without excuses. Having people actually invest in you, spend time with you and encourage you while you’re matriculating at the university really sticks with you, so this is our way of hopefully taking the burden of finances off the table for some students.”

NCCU Vice Chancellor of Institutional Advancement Gia Soublet, Ph.D., said Grady and Day have set an excellent precedent.

“For a father and daughter to make this gift is remarkable and speaks volumes about our alumni and their NCCU experience,” Soublet said. “I’m grateful to Professor Grady and her father for remembering NCCU in this meaningful way.”

Having a lasting impact is significant to Day and Grady.

“I’m a professor because giving back is important to me,” Grady said. “Once you arrive at your destination, it’s great to turn around and help somebody the way somebody helped you. This endowment is for perpetuity, and it’s a great way to honor our ancestors and is something our family and descendants can be proud of in years to come.”

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