Monday, March 12, 2001

Minority scholarship marks 25 years

Grads, in turn, take active roles in fund-raisers

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hundreds of alumni and undergraduates are celebrating the 25th anniversary of a minority scholarship fund that eased their way through the University of Cincinnati.

        UC senior Kevin Do recalled how he had planned to work 20 hours a week and to major in mechanical engineering technology. But full tuition from the Darwin T. Turner Scholars Program changed his fortunes, said Mr. Do, 22, of Mount Healthy.

[photo] A Turner scholarship helped pharmacist Jerome Jackson, 35, to earn his college degree. He works with another pharmacist, LaVonda Dallas, at a drugstore in Bond Hill.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        “With what I know now, I don't think I could have made it,” he said.

        Friendships among participants also put the program's value “way beyond just the money,” he added.

        As one of the 500 alumni, Jerome S. Jackson said the program is “similar to a family ... on campus.”

        The Turner Scholars' silver anniversary began with a breakfast last month that raised $118,500. It continues with two more fund raisers: the annual five-mile Walk for Turner on March 31, and the annual dinner dance on April 21.

        UC said 85 percent of the Turner Scholars graduate with their scholarships intact. Of those who lose their scholarships, many still graduate. Typically, 29 percent of all black freshmen earn baccalaureate degrees from UC within six years.

        The scholarships are combined with a supportive network.

        If there is a typical Turner Scholar, it might be Mr. Jackson. His letter-carrier father was retiring and a sister was in college when Jerome finished Walnut Hills High School in 1984. Prospects of paying for UC were “kind of dreary” until a guidance counselor tipped him to the scholarship, he said.

        Today, Mr. Jackson is a registered pharmacist and manager of the new Walgreen pharmacy at Reading Road and Seymour Avenue in Roselawn.

        “It was a blessing,” Mr. Jackson said. “I thank God even today for it.”

        His gratitude, typical of many Turner Scholars, is tangible. The 35-year-old home-owning College Hill bachelor has funded a $1,000 per year tuition scholarship within the larger program.

        The fund was created as the Minority Scholars Program in 1976, largely through the efforts of then-state Rep. William Mallory and state Sen. William Bowen.

        It was renamed 10 years ago for the youngest person to earn a four-year degree from UC.

        Darwin T. Turner graduated with a BA in English in 1947 at age 16, the scion of an intellectually powerful black family with deep Cincinnati roots. Nine years later, he earned a doctorate in English and American Dramatic Literature at the University of Chicago.

        After a classroom career, Dr. Turner was dean of African American World Studies at the University of Iowa when he died in 1991.

        In 25 years, the scholarship program has given an estimated $8.7 million in grants for tuition, room and board, books and pocket money. This year, it's $683,826, of which UC contributed $551,044 (81 percent) and the UC Foundation donated $132,782 (19 percent).

        Program director Latasha Y. Jones said 66 percent of the recipients are black, 32 percent are Asian-American and 2 percent are Hispanic.

        A minority among minorities, Elena Teran, 22, a Cheviot Latina senior in anthropology and another Walnut Hills grad, agreed. Turner Scholars “hung out” with their own ethnic/racial groups but it was no problem, Ms. Teran added, because the bond among participants was stronger than narrow ethnic or racial identities.

        Turner Scholars are Ohioans, who are in the top third of their high school graduating classes and had at least a B average. This year, 136 undergraduates hold Turner scholarships.

        Ms. Jones said the Turner program is considered to be the largest and oldest of UC's minority scholarships.

        In a typical year, Ms. Jones said, the program rejects two-thirds of the applicants.

        Maintaining grades wasn't easy, Mr. Jackson recalled, “but if you were really busting your butt ... they'd cut you some slack.”

        That may have saved Shirley (Williams) Brame, of Silverton. In her freshman fall quarter, “everything went wrong. My midterms came back and they weren't good.”

        Then there were other pressures. Her oldest sister, Angela, had graduated a Turner Scholar. “I let her down and that upset me.”

        An older Turner Scholar helped Mrs. Brame kick high school study habits and embrace college study and time management skills. She survived, occasionally made the dean's list and graduated, her scholarship and obligations to parents Ben and Shirley Williams and older sisters intact.

        “I was very blessed to have the parents I did,” Mrs. Brame said. “The Turner Scholarship program was able to give me everything my parents could not ... They helped build on the foundation that my parents already built.”


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