The way 18-year-old Ralph Mosley had it figured, by next fall, he wouldn’t be working the breakfast shift at Lenoir Dining Hall, scrambling eggs for hundreds of his closest friends like he was now—not if he took that summer job selling Bibles in Muncie, Ind., with a bunch of other college guys.
Mosley returned to campus in the fall of 1960 with the bounty of his sales commissions: a shiny black Studebaker, a new suit, three white shirts, a briefcase and a stereo. He’d deposited much of the $1,400 he’d earned—a relative fortune—in his hometown bank in Ahoskie, N.C., before heading to Chapel Hill for his sophomore year.
For the next three summers, he rang doorbells in small Midwestern towns for Southwestern Company, paying his way through Carolina. After graduating in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, Mosley headed for the Navy’s officer candidate school to gain management experience.
When his tour ended in 1967, Southwestern hired him as an accountant. His entrepreneurial spirit was a perfect fit for the company that valued individual effort. By 1978, he was CEO of the Nashville- based company, whose core business sells children’s and educational books through college students door-to-door during summers.
Though it took Mosley nearly 25 years after graduation to visit Chapel Hill again, he never forgot his Tar Heel roots, which have now been planted firmly in Carolina soil.
Mosley and his wife Juli have committed $1 million for faculty recruitment and retention and another $250,000 in need-based scholarships in the College of Arts and Sciences. The gift is a creative combination of a charitable lead trust that provides $25,000 in annual expendable funds for the college during Ralph’s lifetime, and a charitable remainder trust that will create an endowment that will ensure a permanent income to support generations of faculty. The Mosley Faculty Enhancement Fund provides discretionary resources for the dean to use in attracting and retaining outstanding teachers and scholars, the college’s most persistent challenge.
“When we first started talking with the college, I wanted to know what areas were least likely to be funded, where would our gift mean the most,” Mosley said. “Faculty support emerged as the greatest need. The University helped me when I was a student. We’ve been blessed and believe in giving something back to our communities, and to the places and things we care about.”
Growing up in Ahoskie, Mosley harvested peanuts, tobacco and cotton for local farmers; delivered newspapers; and loaded and worked on a bread delivery truck. But it was on N.C. 54 between Raleigh and Chapel Hill that his career path took a more lucrative turn.
“I was hitchhiking back to Chapel Hill in December 1959, and the driver, who happened to be a State student, asked what I did during the summer,” Mosley said. “I told him I worked at a service station for $35 a week. Then he asks me if I’d like to make $1,000 a week selling Bibles. He said it was hard work, but I told him nothing could be harder than changing truck tires and greasing semis.”