MONROE, LA – The University of Louisiana Monroe Foundation announces the Dr. Alex John, Jr., Endowed Scholarship at ULM is now fully funded, thanks to generous gifts from alumni. The scholarship is in honor of Alex John, Jr., Ed.D., the first Black dean at the university.
The BULM Club of the ULM Alumni Association will present a $25,000 check to the ULM Foundation at 9 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 18, at Laird Weems Center. The event is on the day of the Warhawks home opener against visiting Jackson State. A video honoring John will be shown on the Warhawks scoreboard at the end of the first quarter.
The Dr. Alex John, Jr., Endowed Scholarship is for full-time undergraduate students, with special consideration for marginalized and/or first-generation students.
John was an early champion for diversity and inclusion at ULM. As a faculty member, John advised and encouraged Black students to persevere in their quest for a college education when there were few supportive resources for Black students. He was one of the first faculty and administration members who promoted diversity and inclusion at the university.
John (1943-2018) joined ULM, then-Northeast Louisiana University, in 1971 as an instructor in psychology. He later became a tenured assistant professor. In 1974, John was appointed assistant to the vice president of Student Affairs.
In 1980, John was named Dean of the Office of University Relations, becoming the first Black to hold an executive position at ULM. He left the university in 1982 and went on to become successful in several business ventures.
John received his bachelor's and master's degrees from McNeese State University. John earned his Doctor of Education from ULM. He also studied at Southern University, Howard University, and Columbia University.
In 2012, the BULM, formerly the Black NLU Chapter of the Alumni Association, started the scholarship with $2,100 in proceeds raised at an event in Texas.
Susan Chappell, Executive Director of ULM Advancement, Foundation, and Alumni Relations, said in 2016 the scholarship was converted into an endowment with the goal to reach the $25,000 fully funded endowment level by 2021.
"Through fund-raising by dedicated ULM alumni, 53 donors contributed to the Dr. Alex John Endowed Scholarship. By 2020, the scholarship reached and exceeded the $25,000 endowment minimum. Gerald McHenry successfully championed the initiative, receiving support from fellow BULM Alumni Chapter members," Chappell said.
McHenry (B.S.' 85) is a long-time supporter of the ULM Foundation and active ULM alumni. Several years ago, he became involved with the Alumni Association as a member of the Black NLU (BNLU) chapter.
McHenry said John was a supportive presence on campus who was dedicated to helping Black students succeed.
"During Dr. John's tenure at the university, there were not many faculty or administrators who were African American or minority. He was one of the few," McHenry said.
"He was that person you could go to for guidance. He would always have an open door and an open ear. He was like your stand-in dad. Dr. John changed the lives of many students by being always willing to help," he said.
McHenry said as the BNLU chapter grew and raised more money for the university, it was decided that a scholarship for minority students was the best way to give back. The executive committee for BNLU, of which McHenry was a member, made the decision.
"We said, look, we've got this, do something to give back to the university. Let's do something for the students that are there today," he said. "We want this university to continue after we are gone. So, that's when we decided to endow a scholarship and voted on Dr. John," he said.
McHenry is CEO of Impact/Jay Express, a regional long-haul and courier trucking company based in Cordova, Tenn., near Memphis. He graduated from ULM with a B.S. in Computer Science. McHenry earned his M.S. in Quality Management from Eastern Michigan University and completed continuing education in Six Sigma at Ohio State University and engineering statistics at the University of Arkansas.
ULM alumnus and contributor to the scholarship, the Rev. William Gipson (B.A.' 79), associate vice provost for Equity and Access at Penn State University, writes of John, "There are literally thousands of testimonies from the students he helped and advised. His influence will last for generations to come. His selfless care was the impetus for this endowment drive. Even those who came to NLU/ULM after he left heard about this brilliant, kind, generous gentleman who was a saint to so many."