Radford University celebrates relationships at an emotional Partners in Excellence luncheon

Photo Gallery: Anita Williams gives an emotional speech during the Partners in Excellence Celebration
Photo Gallery: Anita Williams gives an emotional speech during the Partners in Excellence Celebration

“This is one of the most special events we host throughout the year. Radford University prides itself on its relationships. That is exactly what we are celebrating here today – the relationships,” said Vice President for University Advancement Wendy Lowery to over 200 hundred guests at the Radford University Foundation’s annual “Partners in Excellence Celebration.”

The annual luncheon, held April 6, 2018, in Kyle Hall, gives scholarship beneficiaries and benefactors the unique opportunity to meet one another, while also serving to honor both parties. This year’s event was particularly emotional as Anita Williams, mother of Paul Hershey, served as one of the guest speakers. Hershey, assistant director for communications with Radford Athletics, passed away June 27, 2017, two weeks after sustaining injuries in a car accident.

“From day one at the hospital the Radford University parade began and it continued for two weeks,” said Williams. “Radford University mourned with our family,”

Shortly after her son’s death, Williams set up the Paul Hershey Memorial Scholarship as a way to memorialize Hershey as well as to give back to the University. “By becoming a donor, I will continue to be involved with the University, and I will continue to be informed of the stories of its students,” Williams explained. “Each year, I’ll be contacted by the scholarship recipient and a new relationship will begin. This one-on-one relationship will be my reward.

“Paul left me with a most precious gift – the Radford University family,” she continued.

Among the sports Hershey covered was men’s basketball. The team honored Hershey’s memory with a “PH” patch on their jerseys during the season – a season that included an appearance in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. “This has been a magical year,” said Williams, referring to the tournament appearance. “I choose to give in order to support future magic at Radford University. May the magical year continue so that we may partner together to maintain excellence,” she concluded, to a standing ovation.  

Nancy Artis ’73, chair of the Radford University Foundation Board of Directors and benefactor of the Artis Endowed Scholarship and the Nancy Eisenhart Artis and H. Pat Artis Endowed Scholarship in Information Technology, announced to the guests that over the last year the Radford University Foundation paid out over $1.7 million to fund more than 500 scholarships.

Emily McMillion ’18, recipient of the Charlotte Rose Fonfara LaRose and Robert E. LaRose Scholarship, was one of the students who benefited from a Foundation Scholarship. “Receiving that scholarship meant that I could continue my education. It meant that I could finish my degree – finish what I’ve been working so hard toward,” McMillion explained.

“I received a scholarship for student teachers,” said Allison Underwood ’17, recipient of the Esterhuizen Student Teacher Scholarship. “Since student teaching is a full-time job, and you aren’t able to work while you teach, the scholarship definitely relieved me of the financial burden related to my education.”

Margie Kark ’67, M.S. ’70, benefactor of the Margie Branscome Kark Scholarship, explained why she decided to endow a scholarship. “I graduated from here and I retired from here. I received my master’s as a part-time student, and I felt that was an area of need, so that’s why I started a scholarship for part-time students.”

Kark was seated with the recipient of her scholarship, Melissa Macomber ’19. “It’s really great to be able to thank your benefactor personally,” explained Macomber.

“It’s always great to meet the students and hear their story. Hear where they’ve been and where they’re going,” continued Kark.

Savanna Miller ’18, recipient of the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation Nursing Scholarship, served as the event’s student speaker. She explained that, as a first-generation college student with nine siblings, she broke down in the weeks before she was to begin classes because she did not know how she was going to pay for her education.

“Little did I know that the 18-year-old crying at her kitchen table, wondering how she was going to pay for her education, would, three years later, be standing here thanking the donors that made my education possible,” Miller said.

“When donors support Radford University, they support not only students, but they support every person that student cares for and comes in contact with during their career.”

Apr 9, 2018
Jeremy Norman