The Catalyze podcast: A friendship forged in the wilderness: David von Storch ’80

Podcast | November 13, 2023

Today we have a story from Morehead-Cain Ambassador David von Storch ’80 about how he met his classmate, Andy Spencer ’80. It’s one of resilience, connection, and gratitude.

It begins in the wilderness.

Listen to the episode.

The Morehead-Cain Day of Giving is this Friday, November 17. Support the Program by the end of the Day to help us reach our goal of 50 percent alumni giving participation.

Thank you for supporting the next generation of scholars!

About Morehead-Cain Ambassadors

Morehead-Cain Class Ambassadors engage in outreach to their peers on behalf of the Foundation. The group comprises alumni with members representing each graduating class. On the Day of Giving, held every November, alumni remind their classmates to give. As a direct result of ambassadors, around 55 percent of alumni consistently participate.

Music credits

The episode’s intro song is by scholar Scott Hallyburton ’22, guitarist of the band South of the Soul.

How to listen

On your mobile device, you can listen and subscribe to Catalyze on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. For any other podcast app, you can find the show using our RSS feed.

Catalyze is hosted and produced by Sarah O’Carroll for the Morehead-Cain Foundation, home of the first merit scholarship program in the United States and located at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You can let us know what you thought of the episode by finding us on Twitter or Instagram at @moreheadcain or you can email us at

Episode Transcription

For my Outdoor Leadership experience prior to starting my first year at Carolina, I signed up to trek the Wind River Range in Wyoming.

While I considered myself outdoors certified, finding myself pitching my tent in snow on the second night, and not seeing dry land again until the penultimate night in the wilderness, was, to say the least, humbling.

When the first thing I had to do each morning was to take my piton hammer and break open my frozen boots so I could get my feet wrapped in wet socks inside in this frozen purgatory, I often wondered if the other Morehead-Cain Scholars were so profoundly miserable. I hoped they were.

On the day we passed the last summit, the sun was almost blinding as it reflected so intensely from the snow and the thin air. We were on our way down the pass, and I was thinking, this is going to be over in less than a week. It was a good day.

In the distance, we saw a guy walking up the mountain, alone, with only a day pack and a water bottle. Who is this guy and what the heck was he doing?

As he approached, we saw that his face was as red as ours and he had a big smile. Okay, this is a legit mountain dude.

“Hey, are any of y’all Morehead Scholars?” he boomed in a thick, southern drawl.

Without hesitation I went up to him and blurted out, “I am, I am,” thinking maybe Mebane Pritchett, our executive director at the time, had finally realized this was all a terrible mistake and this guy was here to helicopter me to a spa in Jackson Hole.

“What are you doing here?” I asked. He responded as if he was having the time of life.

“l left a button at the last campsite and the instructors told me where it was, and I had to go back and get it,” he said.

Wait, you’re doing what? And you’re smiling?

In an instant I thought, “Oh, this is how Morehead Scholars respond to adversity. I am so screwed!”

If I had been told to go back over a mountain pass, alone, to get a button I accidentally left at some random campsite that I’d surely never find again, l would have given the scholarship back at the nearest pay phone.

After a few minutes, Andy went on his way trekking up the mountain and it hit me.

I am one of a group of very special people, and I was given this opportunity for a reason. I never forget that lesson.

We all have stories about how Carolina, Morehead-Cain, and other scholars impacted our lives in ways that to this day we haven’t fully appreciated.

Today, I have a request. Think about how the Morehead-Cain Scholarship changed you, made you a better person, and gave you opportunities and connections that you would not have had otherwise.

The Day of Giving is coming up on November 17. I’m going ask you to join us in supporting the very special and important work of the Morehead-Cain Foundation.

I hope you connected to my story in some way and you are reminded of the special role the Foundation and its universe of people have played in your life. Thanks for listening.