Leading the Charge While Leaving a Legacy: Reel and Bucciere Support the CHHS Experience


Justine Reel and Robert Bucciere

Several years ago, Justine Reel led a group of UNCW students on a study abroad course to Sweden. The course’s topic was health care and innovation. But she quickly realized that the cross-cultural experience – and even the airplane ride – were as much a part of the learning experience for many students as the course material.

“The exposure to diverse cultures is life-changing,” says Reel, associate dean for research and innovation in the College of Health and Human Services. Reel’s husband, Robert Bucciere, also works for CHHS as a systems training and reporting specialist and helped with travel logistics. “Creating a way for students to experience Sweden and Denmark opened our eyes and underscored the importance of these immersion experiences, especially when we learned that many of the students had never been outside the state of North Carolina.”

We've seen some of the barriers students and faculty face. We wanted these to be substantial gifts for someone."

On the heels of the trip, the couple decided to make their second planned gift to UNCW – a travel award endowment. Previously, the couple made a planned gift to establish the Bucciere-Reel Scholarship in Social Work, honoring both their work with CHHS students and Bucciere’s background in social work. Through an additional annual gift, they are pleased to offer this merit and needs-based scholarship for the first time to a deserving student for 2021-22.

“We’ve wanted to set up planned gifts for a while, but had been undecided about which part of the university to support,” Reel says. “After teaching in the Social Work Substance Use Disorders and Addictions certificate program, working with research assistants and Honors students, and teaching the study abroad course, it solidified our decision to stay local [in CHHS] for these initial gifts.”

The couple recently made a third planned gift that will establish a fund for research and innovation in CHHS. The fund will support three main priorities:

  • a research award to honor inerprofessional collaboration, mentorship and impactful scholarship
  • a new award to recognize accomplishments related to innovation, commercialization or technology transfer
  • support for research assistantships at either the college or school level, a mechanism that will benefit both faculty and students conducting research

The couple’s three gifts are part of UNCW’s multi-year fundraising campaign to support students, faculty, programs and facilities. The university began counting gifts toward Like No Other: The Campaign for UNCW on July 1, 2015.

“We believe that teaching and research go hand-in-hand. Hopefully students can get exposed to research early in their undergraduate career and will be inspired to continue the work in an area they’re passionate about,” Reel says. “We also want to recognize outstanding faculty scholars for their innovative work. Faculty research agendas can be helped by having a strong research assistant.”

“We’ve seen some of the barriers students and faculty face. We wanted these to be substantial gifts for someone,” Bucciere says. He paid his way through college and graduate school, holding down a job with UPS at night while squeezing in classes and internships during the day. “Hopefully our gifts will alleviate some of the stress so that future students can experience some of the things I missed out on when I was a student at UNCG.”

The couple, both part of UNCW’s E.L. White Planned Giving Society, hope their gifts are a way that they can leave a legacy at an institution that’s become very much like home for both of them since they arrived in Wilmington in 2014.

“We like the size, the energy and where the institution has come from,” Bucciere says. “UNCW has grown and it’s still growing, but the students are still the main focus. And the faculty are invested in by this institution – you’re not just a number here. It’s not like that everywhere.”

“It is a very personal decision to give or donate to a particular cause,” Reel adds, “but we specifically decided to give to UNCW because it gives us chills to think about helping the next generation of faculty, staff and students to grow through a myriad of life-changing experiences long after we’re gone.”

Your planned gift will count toward the goals of Like No Other: The Campaign for UNCW. To learn more about giving to CHHS, please contact Melissa Sinclair at sinclairm@uncw.edu. To learn more about the options available for planned giving donors, please contact Tim McClain at mcclaint@uncw.edu or visit uncwlegacygift.org.