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Scholarship helps students go onward and upward

davelin woodard 4888The first-ever recipients of the four-year Everett-Williams Memorial Scholarship have graduated from the University of Mississippi, and their futures both appear bright.

Logan Wilson, of Hattiesburg, earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the university in May, and Davelin Woodard, of Oxford, received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the UM Medical Center in Jackson.

Wilson will begin medical school at UMMC this fall, while Woodard is a nurse in the Medical Center’s surgical intensive care unit. She cares for patients who are in critical condition before or after surgery, as well as those who have been involved in life-threatening traumas.

“I am excited to have found a career that I love and that allows me to help people on a daily basis,” Woodard said.

Both Wilson and Woodard say that the Everett-Williams Scholarship gave them the financial freedom they needed to pursue their dreams at Ole Miss, a university they each grew to love.

“The Everett-Williams Scholarship presented me with opportunities that I never thought I’d have in college,” Wilson said. “It allowed me to focus solely on my academics rather than constantly worrying about how I was going to afford college.

“It also motivated me to be successful. Being one of the first two recipients, I wanted to set the standard high for future students that received this honor.”

Likewise, Woodard said the scholarship enabled her to attend the university by eliminating the financial burden of tuition.

“In addition, I had the privilege of meeting my donor, Mr. William McMullen, twice, and we also communicated via mail and email,” she said. “It was clear that he genuinely cared about my academic endeavors and my overall well-being. My family and I could never thank Mr. McMullen enough for the impact he had on my life and the part he played in my success.”

McMullen, a 1969 UM law graduate from Charlotte, North Carolina, chairs the committee that selects scholarship recipients. His uncle, Thomas Marshall Everett, of Meridian, seeded the fund with an initial gift of $90,000 and requested that the endowment includes his wife’s maiden name (Williams) to represent her side of the family.

The fund was originally to be managed by the Southern Baptist Foundation of Tennessee. But in 2008, McMullen coordinated its transfer to the UM Foundation, creating two four-year scholarships that total $13,000 annually: one for the Sally McDonnell-Barksdale Honors College, the other for Ole Miss First, a program that rewards scholastic achievement and leadership.

“Philanthropists often say that they get out of the experience more than the recipients,” McMullen said. “For me, that is definitely true. It’s rewarding to know that we were able to help Davelin and Logan make it through school without a huge debt-load, and I feel blessed and honored to be part of what they achieved.”

According to a Wall Street Journal report from May 2016, college graduates are saddled with an average student loan debt of more than $37,000. Both Wilson and Woodard say they feel fortunate to have been selected for the scholarship.

“The University of Mississippi provided me with a top-notch education in biochemistry as well as allowed me to find my identity,” Wilson said. “It has opened my eyes to many of the controversies that exist in society today and also taught me how to handle them from an educated and respectful perspective.”

Woodard agrees: “This scholarship was so much more than just a financial blessing,” she said, adding that she received the Everett-Williams Scholarship through Ole Miss First, which also provided mentorship, guidance, and friendship throughout her time on the Oxford campus.

“I feel that my prerequisite courses at the Oxford campus adequately prepared me for the rigorous coursework of the nursing program at UMMC. At UMMC, the classes provided me with theoretical knowledge, while simulation labs and clinical rotations provided me with hands-on experience. My education at Ole Miss and UMMC helped me feel prepared and confident to start my career as a registered nurse.”

Douglass Sullivan-González, dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, said he is not surprised by Wilson’s and Woodard’s achievements.

“Davelin and Logan had such intense focus as students,” he said. “They each clearly had a very definite objective in mind and were committed to it. We wish them all the best in their continued education and professional careers.”

Rosie McDavid, director of the Ole Miss First scholarship program, mentored Woodard and knew her well.

“Davelin is an exceptionally bright scholar who was so appreciative of her scholarship and because of it, she is going to go on and make a difference in this world in the field of nursing,” McDavid said.