In 1958, after an 11-inch snowstorm hit Winston-Salem, a carload of Wake Forest boys headed to Salem College looking for sledding partners. Few could have imagined that the evening would bring together a Florida freshman and a Wake Forest senior who would establish one of the University’s largest and most unique scholarships.
Bill Cobb (’58) and Rhoda Ware came from very diverse backgrounds. Rhoda grew up in a prominent family where college was expected. Most of Bill’s childhood was spent in the orphanage in Oxford, NC where he starred as a student and athlete. College was not a foregone conclusion, though, so Bill made good use of his vocational skills as a printer to help him put himself through Wake Forest.
Love at first sight was real for Bill and Rhoda. They became engaged in that summer and married in November. After a stint in the army Bill joined American Waterworks, the nation’s largest privately owned water utility company, and rose through its ranks to become president of the Eastern Division. The Cobbs made many corporate moves and raised four children. The youngest, Rhoda Lesley, and husband Davin Juckett are 1993 graduates of Wake Forest.
Over the years, Rhoda and Bill Cobb stayed in close contact with Bill’s fraternity brother, Bill Starling (’57), who was Wake Forest’s first fulltime Director of Admissions. Through a family foundation, they began contributing gift s for needy students, and in 1985 they endowed the Cobb Foundation Scholarship Fund. Remembering Bill Cobb’s experience, they asked that first preference for the need-based scholarship be given to students who lost one or both parents.
Today, more than 50 students have received the Cobb Scholarship, including 11 current students. The Cobb Foundation has also given generously to Athletics and to the Wake Forest Fund, the Benson University Center, and the Calloway Center wing. With that last gift, they set in motion the naming of the existing Admissions building for the late Bill Starling.
Bill Cobb died in May, 2008. He was a private man who did not want acclaim for his family’s generosity. At the University’s urging however, Rhoda and the family allowed the story to be told at the annual Stewardship Breakfast last October. On hand were many members of the family, most of the current Cobb Scholars, and several Cobb Scholar alumni. Events included the unveiling of a portrait of Bill Cobb, which will hang in the new Admissions and Welcome Center.
The love story of Rhoda and Bill Cobb lives on through their family and each generation of students who benefit from their generosity.