lake and beyond
Furman expands Joseph Vaughn scholarship to support more African-American students
The Furman University Board of Trustees announced today that it has endorsed expanding a scholarship fund that honors the memory of the late Joseph Vaughn, the university’s first African-American student.
Increasing the existing scholarship to $1 million in total annual awards and designating $3 million in endowment funds to ensure its continuation follows a recommendation made by the university’s Task Force on Slavery and Justice, whose report was released this past summer. The scholarship fund will benefit African-American students attending Furman, particularly students who come from areas near the university’s historic campus locations in South Carolina.
Furman was founded in Edgefield in 1826, and later moved to the High Hills of Santee (Sumter area) and Winnsboro before settling in Greenville in 1851. Vaughn, a native of Greenville, became Furman’s first African-American student in 1965 and graduated with honors in 1968. He died in 1991.
“It is important to have a major scholarship that both honors Joseph Vaughn and benefits African-American students at the university,” said Alec Taylor, chair of Furman’s Board of Trustees. “Substantially increasing the amount of this scholarship will allow Furman to meet the financial need of our students and add to the diversity of our student body, while acknowledging the important work done by the Task Force on Slavery and Justice.”
The Board of Trustees accepted the report of the task force at its fall meeting this past weekend, and endorsed the administration moving forward to consider the recommendations that fall under its purview, which included expanding the Vaughn scholarship.
The board also endorsed the administration working with the faculty to consider the task force’s academic and curricular recommendations, such as raising the general understanding of Furman’s involvement with slavery and helping students understand how the university’s past relates to its efforts to improve diversity and inclusion.
Taylor said the board has established a special committee of trustees to consider the remaining recommendations that require board action.
“The special committee will consult with the task force, facilitate an in-depth discussion for trustees at our February meeting, and then present its recommendations to the full board for consideration in May,” Taylor said.
The Task Force on Slavery and Justice was formed in the spring of 2017 to examine the university’s historical connections to slavery and to help Furman better understand and learn from its past. Its report, “Seeking Abraham,” includes a history of the school’s early ties to slavery and makes a number of recommendations for the university to consider.
“I am grateful for the hard work of both the task force and the Board of Trustees as we examine and reflect on our history,” said Furman President Elizabeth Davis. “If Furman is going to keep moving toward a positive future, then we must understand our past and how we have been shaped by it. We want every student to feel welcome at Furman, and I look forward to our continuing efforts to make sure that is the case.”
Furman is a member of the Universities Studying Slavery consortium headquartered at the University of Virginia. The consortium consists of more than 40 colleges and universities from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Other participating schools in the consortium include Brown University, Clemson University, Davidson College, Georgetown University, the University of Georgia, the University of Richmond, Sewanee: The University of the South, the University of South Carolina, Wake Forest University and Washington & Lee University.