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Bill Kirby Jr.: United Way to remember legacy of the late Robert H. Short

Youth Growth Stock Trust will award $345,000 in grants to 14 nonprofit organizations and 31 public schools


You can say for certain that Robert H. Short left the world better than he found it because of the late philanthropist’s passion for education.

And because of his dream of helping young people succeed in their lives.

“Mr. Short has a remarkable story,” says Amy Navejas, executive director and chief executive officer of United Way of Cumberland County. “One of six children, he left school early to help support the family when his father passed away. He never completed high school. Despite the odds, he joined the military and later purchased Major Appliance. Meanwhile, he began researching the stock market, where he developed his own successful investment strategies. Though he never had children of his own, he cared deeply about his community and chose to entrust United Way of Cumberland County with a generous financial gift designed to support local youth indefinitely. His wisdom and deep passion for scholarships and community support remain palpable today as he continues to touch lives.”

Robert Short died Feb. 24, 2011.

Thursday will mark Short’s 102nd birthday, when he will be remembered at 6 p.m. at the Tony Rand Multipurpose Room on the Fayetteville Technical Community College campus. United Way of Cumberland County will be awarding $345,000 in grants through the Youth Growth Stock Trust established by Short in 1992.

‘My hero’

“His passion was education, and he wanted every child to have access to a great education,” says Chad Barbour, principal of Cumberland Polytechnic High School. “He wanted to help as many children as possible go to college. One thing he did not share with many is that he did not complete high school. One of his biggest regrets in life was that he never had children.”

Short was inspired, Barbour says, to help found the Boys and Girls Clubs of Fayetteville, as well as the Youth Growth Stock Trust.

“He was a firm believer in giving in silence,” says Barbour, a trustee for the trust. “I feel his lack of formal education and never having children made him passionate about giving to children’s causes and education. Mr. Short is my hero.”

A hero and a man admired, too, by Jane Fields, who is associate superintendent of school support for Cumberland County Schools.

“I first met Mr. Short when I took over as director of the Academy of Finance at Douglas Byrd High School in 1998,” Fields says. “He was a member of the AOF advisory board. His passion was education and volunteering his time with the academy that allowed him to combine two passions — business-finance and education. He donated his time to mentor young people and he also donated money to ensure the program flourished. The Youth Growth Stock Trust Fund provided scholarships to students within the Academy of Finance and the Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies Academy at Douglas Byrd High School, as well as to the students in other academies.”

No education need was too great, and no young person was more important than another nor was any young person less important than another.

That was Robert Short, a Greensboro native and World War II veteran who moved to Fayetteville in 1951 to work with Major Appliance and later owned the business until selling it in 1983.

“He also made sure students in the AOF and FPAS had money to apply for colleges of their choice and attend field trips,” Fields says. “He donated each year to the junior trip to Washington, D.C., and the senior trip to New York City” financial district. “Education was his top priority because he was never able to graduate high school.”

‘Uncle Bob’

Fields says she and her family came to know Short personally.

“I got to know Mr. Short on a personal level when he invited my family to lunch on a Saturday afternoon at Ryan’s Steakhouse,” she says. “I went to join him for lunch that Saturday in 1998 and he let me know it was a standing invitation” each Saturday at 11:45 a.m. “Our family joined him most Saturdays. It was during these lunches that I really got to know him. He was a brilliant businessman, but I also got to know the compassionate, selfless, generous and loving Robert H. Short.” 

She recalls the birth of her daughter, Ashton Fields, in 2003.

“I had never seen him so excited,” Fields says. “He couldn't wait to hold her, and with tears in his eyes shared with me that he did not think he had ever held a baby before. He never had children of his own. He decided that Ashton would call him Uncle Bob, and she did. Ashton joined the Saturday visits, which over the years became more than just Saturdays. When she learned to read, she would read books to him that she received from Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Mr. Short signed her up to receive these. He also taught her how to count money. We have so many personal stories of the impact that he had on our lives, and I am thankful that I still get to see young people benefit from his hard work and sacrifices.”

Fields says that because of Short, she became involved with United Way of Cumberland County. She was chairwoman for the board of directors in 2022.

“The scholarships that are awarded each year represent what was most important to him,” she says. “He wanted young people to have the opportunity to further their education and attend college. This is all he talked about in his later years. His legacy lives on through the countless lives that are positively impacted through his philanthropy. The burden of paying for college has been less stressful thanks to the scholarships awarded to deserving young people each year.”

‘If I donated $18,000 today’

Robert Short’s philanthropy is remembered by Robert Hines, former president and chief executive officer of United Way of Cumberland County.

“Robert was a caring man who loved children of all ages, and he was committed to supporting efforts to create greater outcomes for young people in our region,” says Hines, who met Short in 2004 when Hines became the leader of the local United Way.

Hines met with Short quarterly each year for lunch.

“During lunch, we often discussed the viability of various children’s programs as well as how we could offer scholarships to students embarking on their college journey,” Hines says. “Of all the programs that we discussed, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library was his pride and joy.”

Hines says he never will forget the day when trying to figure out how United Way of Cumberland County could reach its annual goal that was $18,000 shy.

“He called and asked, ‘What are you doing, Robert?’” Hines says. “I replied that I was trying to develop a plan to raise an additional $18,000 to reach our campaign goal. Mr. Short followed up with a second question. ‘If I donate $18,000 today, can the contribution go toward the Dolly Parton Imagination Library?’”

Hines could not get to Short’s home fast enough.

“I immediately jumped up from my desk, ran out the door and drove to his home,” he says. “Upon arriving at Mr. Short’s home, he suggested that I sit at his desk and write the check for $18,000.”

That was Robert Short.


Amy Navejas says that Thursday evening will be for awarding grants of $345,000 to $147,300 to 14 local nonprofit programs and $197,700 to 31 local public schools.

And for remembering and honoring the legacy of Robert H. Short.

“We celebrate by reflecting on his lasting legacy and over $5 million in grants to our community’s

youth,” Navejas says.

You can say for certain that Robert H. Short left the world better than he found it because of  the late philanthropist’s passion for education and enriching the lives of our community’s young people and their tomorrows to come. 

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.

Youth Growth Stock Trust grants


VRC Youth Summer Explosion; Vision Resource Center; Miller’s Brew coffee shop; Miller’s Crew; Student Matinee Series; Cape Fear Regional Theatre; Community Child Abuse and Prevention Outreach; Child Advocacy Center; Find a Friend Career Readiness Program; Fayetteville Urban Ministry; Family Support Program for Military Children (ages 0-18); Army Services YMCA; FTCC Youth Community Dental Health Fair; Fayetteville Technical Community College Foundation; School Resource Officer Training: Breakthrough Series Collaborative, JCPC/UW School Resource Officers; Shelton Leadership Challenge, Methodist University; Artist in Schools Program, Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumberland County; Third-Grade School Visits and Concerts, Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra; Meals of Hope, United Way of Cumberland County; Bands of America Championship, Cape Fear Bands and Ensemble Booster; Gardenmania, Cape Fear Botanical Garden.

Public schools

D.R.U.M Drumming Rhythms and Unity in Music, E. Melvin Honeycutt Elementary School; STEM-ulating The Gifted Mind!, Cumberland County Schools AIG Department; Kindergarten Flower Connections, Stedman Primary School; Earth Shaking, Ground Breaking, Seventy-First Classical Middle School; Jump Start a Positive Behavior With Books, Cumberland Road Elementary School; Integrated Systems Technology Academy of Engineering Scholarships, Jack Britt High School; FFA Scholarship Program, Cape Fear High School; We’ve Got The Whole World in Our Hands, District 7 Elementary School; Our Beginning Teachers Can Handle All! Help with Classroom Management, Beginning Teachers Office of Cumberland County Schools; STEM for Success, Warrenwood Elementary School; Academy of Engineering Technologies, Westover High School; Academy of Health Sciences, Westover High School; Academy of IT Scholarship Program, Gray’s Creek High School; Parent Resource Center and Lending Library, Cumberland Academy K-5; Career Pathways-YGST Scholarship, Cumberland County Schools Career Pathways; Jackie Warner Leadership Institute and Transitional Summer Academy, Douglas Byrd High School; Girls on the Run, Armstrong Elementary School; Student and Parent Engagement Initiative, Elizabeth Cashwell Elementary School; G.L.O.W. Up (Girls Leading On With Unprecedented Poise, Reid Ross Classical Middle School; iCAN with an iPAD: Fostering Independent Research, Raleigh Road Elementary School; Smart Lunch (Flextime Manager & E-Hall Pass), Terry Sanford High School; Making the Makers of Tomorrow, Seventy-First Classical Middle School; NC Grid Legends (Academy of Green Tech), Douglas Byrd High School; Greater Expectations Transition and Sixth-Grade Leadership Academy, South View Middle School; Academy Scholarships, Douglas Byrd High School; Wolverines Unite, Westover High School; CCS Live United Volunteer Program, Cumberland County Schools Military Family and Youth Liaison; Chess, Grandmaster to Designer, E. Melvin Honeycutt Elementary School; Academy of Emergency Medical Science, Pine Forest High School; Academy of IT College Bound Scholarships, Pine Forest High School; Academy of Finance Scholarships, Douglas Byrd High School

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