The Cliftons

After starting at UNC with $100 and a partial baseball scholarship, Benton F. “Sonny” Clifton worked his way through school while playing both baseball and soccer, and graduated in 1955, giving him a solid foundation for an outstanding career in health and physical education and then in business. He and his wife, Shirley, always wanted to give back to UNC, “at the right place, at the right time, with the right people.”

The CliftonsThe Patient and Family Resource Center at the N.C. Cancer Hospital was a good fit with their values. The Cliftons had followed the progress of the UNC School of Medicine and Lineberger and Sonny’s expertise in the field of health education got him interested in the resource center’s many services for patients and their caregivers. They also had been personally touched by cancer. Shirley’s mother died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and at the time, Shirley wished she had had more information to help her support her mother.

“We just wanted to do some good,” said both the Cliftons.

Both natives of Raleigh and graduates of Hugh Morson High School, the couple has been married for 56 years. After earning his master’s degree and additional post-grad work, Sonny coached and taught at Millbrook High School in Raleigh, where he later served as assistant principal from 1961-64. His career took the Cliftons to Florida where Sonny eventually was state Director of Health and Physical Education and then to Maryland where he served as the assistant executive secretary at the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Alliance in Washington, DC. While in Washington, he completed three special consulting assignments for the World Health Organization.

The Cliftons returned to their hometown in 1979, establishing Farm and Ranch on Capitol Boulevard. Later, Sonny chaired the Board of Trustees of the N.C. Health Plan and was awarded the state’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

Shirley says, “Sonny has always been grateful to UNC for his education and wanted to show his appreciation.”

The Cliftons found that a planned gift — a $50,000 charitable gift annuity — fit well with their financial and philanthropic goals. We are thrilled that Sonny and Shirley support UNC every way they can — cheering on the athletic teams and helping the many patients being served at the N.C. Cancer Hospital!