June 16, 2014

GSU Ruston Chapter Pledges $50,000 Scholarship

With $25, 000 in hand and an alumna pledge of $25,000, the Ruston Alumni Chapter presents $50,000 check during third annual scholarship gala on GSU campus

Dr. Janet Duncan Barnes, a 1974 GSU alumnae, has pledged a $50,000 scholarship donation as part of GSU’s Ruston alumni chapter.
Dr. Janet Duncan Barnes, a 1974 GSU alumnae,
has pledged a $50,000 scholarship donation as
part of GSU’s Ruston alumni chapter.

Grambling, La. -Grambling State University’s Ruston alumni chapter has pledged a $50,000 scholarship donation, including $25,000 already raised and another $25,000 promised by Dr. Janet Duncan Barnes.

“It’s the least we could do to help our very own place where everybody is somebody,” said Liz White, president of the Grambling University National Alumni Association Ruston Chapter and a 1966 graduate. “We all love dear ole Grambling, and we also believe that we have to show our love with the green.”

During the third annual scholarship gala event at the university’s Black and Gold Room, President Frank G. Pogue said he was thrilled that such a large donation had been pledged, one of the largest alumni chapter pledges made in recent years. White said $25,000 was raised over the last two years, originally with a $10,000 goal. She said the chapter easily raised $8,000 and then set up leadership donor opportunities, asking chapter members to donate at least $1,000 each. Those donations started coming in as well, White said. So the goal became larger, much larger. Then, the chapter set out to find a matching donor, and Barnes made an unexpected promise. “She simply said she would take care of it,” said White.

The scholarship will be named the Ruston Alumni Chapter’s Coach James Wicks Duncan Sr. Endowed Scholarship, in memory of Barnes’ father, a prominent Lincoln Parish coach and educator. “It is with great pride and genuine humility that we, The Duncan Family, support GUNAA- Ruston Chapter’s initiative…We are our Brother’s Keeper,” said Barnes.

Barnes, a successful New Orleans pediatrician and businesswoman and a 1974 GSU alumnae, said the $25,000 pledge is made easy because GSU meant so much to her as she built a strong foundation and as she watched the university during trying financial times. The institution has lost 56 percent of its state funding in just six years, including twice-annual cuts until December. Barnes, a native of Ruston, is a member of the Grambling University Foundation Inc. board of directors, and she established the Mary Rice Duncan Endowed Scholarship, named after her mother, a few years ago.

“When I sat with Liz and she told me their intention to establish a $50,000 endowed scholarship, I was absolutely amazed, thrilled because I know the needs of our students,” said Pogue, who continues as GSU president through June 30. “It is becoming increasingly more difficult to get federal and other student loans and funding, and sizeable donations like this one make a lot of difference.”

Pogue noted that alumni giving has increased from about 1.3% a year ago to about 12% in less than two years. “It means that no matter what our challenges and troubles, our alums understand the growing importance of giving to make a real difference in the lives of our students,” he said.

The Ruston chapter honored the 11 Grambling State alums that made contributions of $1,000 or more, including Ida Alexander,  retired New Orleans educator; Cheryle Buggs, Lincoln Parish educator; Ethel Drayton, Jackson Parish educator; Patricia Hutcherson, Grambling State University registrar; Debra Johnson, GSU Interim executive director of external affairs; Laverne Junior, retired GSU employee; Joecephus “Joe” Melton,  U.S. Air Force retiree; Mary Richard,  retired Lincoln Parish educator; Joe Ann Spencer, Lincoln Parish educator; Liz White, retired Louisiana Tech University professor, and Michelle Wright, executive director of the Lincoln Council on Aging.

“Dr. Barnes shared a piece of her heart, and a hefty piece of her checkbook,” added White. “What she and these other donors have done show an indescribable generosity. I see it as a challenge to others who are able and willing to give back.”

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