Wendee Saintsing, head women’s basketball coach at Barton College, has achieved another honor. An endowed scholarship in her name has been established by Thomas W. Graves, Jr., to benefit members of the women’s basketball team who demonstrate financial need and maintain eligibility.
“I’m honored and humbled that this scholarship has been granted to the women’s team,” says Saintsing, Barton’s all-time winningest coach. “It’s overwhelming.”
She has taken nine teams to the NCAA Division II Tournament, including a trip to last year’s finals following a 13-3 abbreviated season. Now in her 35th year, Saintsing’s overall record stands at 561 wins and 327 losses.
“Hopefully, as students have gone through the program, I’ve had a little bit of impact and been a positive thread in each of their lives,” she continues. “It just does me good to see kids graduate, get out in the real world, and be successful. These tremendous kids make every day special. We’ve been able to win games, and time has flown by.”
Graves first met Saintsing when she and her team attended a Board of Trustees meeting to be recognized for their achievements. “I was so impressed by how bright the players were and with Coach Saintsing’s humility,” he explains. “I feel unbridledly good about this gift. It serves Barton’s athletics and academics, and recognizes Coach Saintsing who, for 35 years, has achieved one goal after another. She is one of the most humble people I’ve ever known. I think she’s terrific.”
A Wilson native, Graves served as a Barton College trustee from 2000 to 2012, and he is a lifelong basketball fan. He is the former vice president and general counsel of Fieldcrest, a textiles manufacturing company that was headquartered in Eden. He began his career with the Wilson law firm of Carr & Gibbons, after earning his Bachelor of Arts degree from Duke University and a Juris Doctor degree from the Duke University School of Law. The former chair of the N.C. State Job Training Council, Graves is also the past president of N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry where he was publisher of its magazine, “We the People of North Carolina.” He has been active in the N.C. Bar Association, as well as church, civic, and service organizations for many years. He and his wife, Sara, make their home in Raleigh.
The Graves family has a long history of philanthropic gifts to Barton. The Barton-Graves House, the official residence of the Barton College president, was donated to the College in 1984 by the children of Graves’ grandparents Mr. and Mrs. W.W. Graves.
Creating close bonds with players has been a hallmark of Saintsing’s coaching style. “We’re like a family,” she shares. “When kids come to Barton, we try to help them in every way we can, both for the team and so they can get a good education. I hope I’m the kind of coach they feel they can come to and depend on.”
Former power forward Brianna Thomas Jones, Class of 2015, had her choice of schools, but she chose Barton because of Saintsing. “I felt I could trust her; I trusted her to guide me and make sure I was okay in everything, not just basketball,” says Jones, a CPA at DFAS (Defense Finance and Accounting Service) for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Saintsing, who received the Milestone Award from the Conference Carolinas collegiate sports association in 2016, believes in teaching her players rules for living. “I tell them only deal with things you have control over,” she says. “That’s a hard lesson. You’re going to face adversity. Let things you have no control over slide off your back.”
“You can only control the outcome you make,” agrees center Shanika Peterkin, Class of 2022, a Virginia Beach, Va., nursing major. “She’s taught me how to be a better woman.”
The Wendee Saintsing Endowed Scholarship joins more than 310 other donor-funded student scholarships, a number that includes five other endowed scholarships that benefit specific athletic teams.
To learn more about endowment-giving opportunities and how to make a lasting impact, visit www.give.barton.edu.