Skip to main content
Alumni Experience

Leader, Mentor, Mother: Marva Motley Honored for Commitment to Black Students Via Endowed Scholarship

Marva Motley Play Video

A mother. That’s how many have described former Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Marva Motley, who worked at the College of Design for 38 years.

“From the moment I stepped foot on campus — Ms. Motley was an advocate for me. She was incredibly selfless, knowledgeable, influential and keenly aware when it came to the needs of her students and the futures we envisioned for ourselves” said Ariana Farquharson [BGD ’10].

Countless black students have described Motley as an advocate for them, cheering them on within the college, and helping them navigate any college challenge, whether it was financial aid or help attending a national conference.

It was exactly that degree of support that shaped Tim Allen’s College of Design experience. Allen [MID ’02], now VP of Design at Airbnb, felt the need to give back to the college. When searching for a way to name his fund and talk about its impact, he couldn’t help but think about Ms. Motley. “Leaders like her left a lasting impression for me and many, many others” he said. “She taught us not to see obstacles as paths to failure, but as potential new beginnings.”

In honor of the extra hours you spent helping us, the extra effort you spent planning for us, the smile on your face as you paved a path for us, and the dreams that I know you still hold for us, I’m creating an endowment in your name so that your gift of support, care and growth can last in perpetuity”

– Tim Allen

From the moment she first met Motley, Candice Murray, associate director of development at the College of Design, was drawn to her warmth. “She’s known all over Raleigh, and she just has this welcoming energy where she wants to see people do well and whatever she has to offer in that journey to success, she gives it” said Candice.

Motley retired from NC State in 2010 after 38 years supporting students, faculty and staff at the College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Design. During that time, she received more than a dozen “Distinguished Service” and “Outstanding College Performance” awards. A native of Raleigh, NC, Motley earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Shaw University in 1992. She earned her master’s degree in adult and counselor education from NC State in 1997 while working full-time at the university.

Motley is active in both her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and her church, Baptist Grove. “She was always passionate about work” said Earline Middleton, longtime friend, neighbor, and sorority sister. “Her work with academics translated to her volunteer work at church – she chaired scholarship committees for both the church and her sorority. She loved being a mentor for the students across grade levels. She also worked with Wake Tech with students who were aging out of foster care, and it was important to her to make sure those kids had the support they needed.”

Not only was she welcoming with her time and resources as an administrator, but also with her home and personal life. “She was like family to me” said ClayVon Lowe [MID ’05] “I lost my mom my freshman year, and she took me under her wing. I went to her house for dinner, went with her family to church…she pushed me to take on leadership roles and do volunteer work throughout the community…. she was a driving force with my success in the College of Design.”

“If you were low on funds, she would help find you some work, even if it was washing the car or cutting the grass” Murray adds. “She would make you work, but make sure that you were taken care of.”

When talking about the formation of the fund, Murray shares that the idea was mutual. “We were on this call for Black design alumni, and even though Marva was late, everyone just lit up when she came on the screen” she recalls. “Tim and I just kind of had a lightning bolt moment where we thought of naming his gift for Marva. We knew it would resonate with the countless other students she had helped.”

And resonate it has. When word of the fund got out, alumni reached out, sharing personal stories and thank you messages via video for Motley. Current Assistant Dean of Students Tameka Whitaker and Candice Murray went to visit Motley, where they shared the video testimonials with her and announced that a fund would be named in her honor.

“It is such an honor to be recognized for doing something that you would have done anyway. For the students who knew me, I spent a lot of time more like their momma than their administrator, because I spent a lot of time encouraging them and being there for them when they needed me” said Motley. “We had a team and that team always reached back to pick up one that might have been struggling. And that’s what it was all about for me.”

The endowment is in support of minority students to help them fill the gaps in their need, and just to help them succeed – just as Motley was known for doing.

“She was one of the first faces I saw when I interviewed as part of the admissions process. I was one of a few Black candidates in a room full of potentials, and one of a few who had the smallest portfolio out of everyone. She immediately spotted me out and reassured me that I deserved to be there as much as anyone else” Farquharson adds.

“She truly was a champion and advocate for Black students” said James Stacey Utley [M.Arch ’06]. “If it wasn’t for her, I would not be where I am today.”

If you would like to make a gift to the Marva Motley Genesis fund, you can do so using this link. If you are interested in other giving opportunities for the College of Design, please contact Candice Murray at