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Alumni and Friends

Brian Cardini Memorial Scholarship Keeps Beloved Student’s Legacy Alive

Headshot of Brian Cardini and Zach Myers
The Brian Cardini Memorial Scholarship provides support to undergraduate students majoring in wood products. It was named in honor of the late Brian Cardini (left) and established by his friends, including Zach Myers (right). Photo provided

Brian Cardini never met a stranger. He was fun, smart, and clever. He would never admit it but he was a born leader. It is no cliché to say that he would give you the shirt off his back. In fact, he’d probably throw in a jacket to keep you warm. 

He was one of those guys you never forget. And his friends who created the Brian Cardini Memorial Scholarship through NC State’s College of Natural Resources never have and never will. 

They can tell you how this charismatic young man, who lost his life in a car accident just a year before graduation, brought them together with a mischievous smile, boundless energy and a volleyball.

His friend Zach Myers, a force behind the creation of the scholarship and the annual volleyball tournament held for years to raise funds to endow it, remembers how Cardini brought together a handful of guys stuck living in an unpopular dorm on campus. 

They spent most of their free time outdoors, eventually gravitating to Brian’s energy and his love of volleyball — beach volleyball, to be precise. The guys played countless hours in the shadow of Becton Hall and got good.

During their sophomore year, Cardini pledged to the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. He brought his friends and volleyball along. “I pledged there the following semester. Living with the guys in that house truly felt like a family. Oh, there were some crazy times, for sure. But I got my best college GPA during the year I lived in the Pi Kappa Alpha house,” Myers said. 

Cardini was the social director of the fraternal family. Outside of his passion for volleyball, “He knew everybody. … He was always trying to get things going socially at the house. From band parties and Late Night to mixers with sororities. Everybody would come. One night, we actually had the starting five of the NC State basketball team drop by. I think it was the night before a home game.”

Cardini was just 21 years old when he was killed in a car accident in Hickory, North Carolina, where he was completing a summer internship in wood products manufacturing. Myers got the news in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was working at the 1996 Summer Olympics. He got into his car and just drove upon receiving the news.

The following weekend, Myers attended the funeral for Cardini and even got a chance to speak about his friend. “We were brothers. What started as fraternity brothers evolved into someone that was just like family.”

Myers remembers every moment of that day. “The priest at the funeral challenged us to never forget Brian, and to go one better – don’t let the world forget him,” he recalled. “That hit home. As I’m listening, the idea of a volleyball tournament creeps into my mind.”

With the blessing of Cardini’s family, Myers coordinated the first Brian Cardini Memorial Volleyball Tournament on NC State’s campus a year later. The proceeds of that event, and others like it for the next decade, have funded the Brian Cardini Memorial Scholarship for undergraduate students majoring in wood products at NC State’s College of Natural Resources.

For Myers, who would go on to graduate in 1997 with a degree in communications, Cardini is still part of his life. He has spent 25 years working in wood products with his current role at a paper company – which would have delighted his friend.

“Me working in the paper and wood products industry lets me know that Brian is still watching over me,” Myers said. 

After all these years, it turns out that there’s nothing Cardini’s friends still won’t do for him. They called the tournament off after interest began to wane, but they still raise funds – mostly through the college’s Day of Giving efforts and other fundraising drives among friends. Myers has even just picked up the phone and made calls to add to the fund. His efforts are often rewarded by donors moved by the story of a young man they never met.

Some might think you have to be rich or have lots of money to create an endowment. Myers would tell you differently. With love and some elbow grease, you can build a gift over time.

“It would be wonderful to have a donor come in and make a major gift so that Brian’s scholarship would be fully funded overnight. But that would not keep me from working hard each and every year with my friends, family and folks in the industry to raise money for the Brian Cardini Memorial Scholarship,” he said. “Every single dollar that is raised and every donation that is made, no matter how small or how large, lets me live up to the challenge that Brian’s priest gave to us many years ago: ‘Do not let the world forget Brian.’”

Myers won’t give up until the scholarship is fully funded, though meeting that goal won’t stop his mission either. “No matter when that day comes, I will still spend every day thinking about Brian and I will still get to tell his story every year during the NC State Day of Giving.” 

This story was written by Beth Grace for the College of Natural Resources.