Bettye Wilson says the reasoning is simple: It’s about opportunity and giving deserving students a chance to make an impact with their lives.

That’s why the UAB African-American Faculty Association (AAFA) is establishing an endowed scholarship.

“We’d like to have a legacy at UAB and do something to help those students who are here,” explains Wilson, president of the AAFA and associate professor in the School of Health Related Professions. “It’s important to us to support students.

“We want to honor those deserving students who choose UAB to further their education.”

Initial fundraising for the endowment campaign began with a May 4 luncheon in the Henley Room of the Sterne Library. The event was organized by the AAFA Scholarship Committee. Lisa Gary (Public Health) and Linda Harris (Sterne Library) were co-chairs of the luncheon, with assistance provided by Heather Martin (Sterne Library), Michael Fitts (Lister Hill Library) and Askhari Hodari (Arts & Humanities).

Significant contributions were made at the lunch by AAFA members and other attendees; donations totaling $4,530 have been received to date. The AAFA goal is to reach the endowed fund level with a minimum $25,000 and then to encourage continued contributions each year after completion of this goal.

Provost Eli Capilouto, who was among those in attendance at the meeting, says he was moved by the remarks of AAFA Scholarship Committee co-chair Carolyn Walden, librarian at Sterne Library, and by the personal donations made that day by Wilson and Fred Wallace, an associate in the department of surgery and co-chair of the AAFA Scholarship Committee. Capilouto says the endowment provides a great opportunity for the AAFA and UAB.

“This generosity by the African-American Faculty Association is another manifestation of the goodness of UAB faculty,” says the provost. “The endowed scholarship will assist students for generations to come.

Besides the legacy of learning provided by the faculty, future students will be able to grow in wisdom without the distraction of financial pressures.”

AAFA history, goals
The AAFA has been in existence informally on the UAB campus for nearly 20 years and an official organization for the past three years. The association was formed for three reasons:
• To provide a forum for association among African-American faculty at UAB.
• To function as an advisory board on behalf of the African-American community at UAB.
• To support and maintain the cultural traditions of persons of African descent within the context of UAB and the Birmingham community.

The AAFA has supported numerous groups in the community in recent years, including the Birmingham Housing Authority, students who came to UAB after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina and the Black Graduate Student Association.

One of the AAFA’s objectives for the new endowment is to encourage graduates of public high schools in the Birmingham metro area to pursue their educational goals here at UAB. The endowed scholarship is also a symbol for many things, perhaps none more important than the AAFA’s commitment to making opportunities for students better at UAB.

“A scholarship endowment says we appreciate the fact that our way has been watered with tears, blood, sacrifice, hardship, inequity, injustice, struggle and conflict,” Walden remarked at the luncheon. “But it has also been nurtured and strengthened with people who cared, with leaders who made courageous decisions even though associates were uncomfortable, with teachers of all races who were fair, with family who sacrificed so we could better our lives, with friends and supporters who stood by to lift our spirits, and with faith, hope and especially love.”

Earnings from the endowment will assist deserving students enrolled at UAB, with preference given to students who demonstrate a commitment to public service within African-American communities either in the Birmingham metropolitan area or in the state of Alabama.

Helping students
The undergraduate student body at UAB is 32.2 percent black, a fact important to Wilson, and she wants to see these men and women graduate.

All too often, Wilson says, the transition from high school or junior college to a four-year school for students, especially for those in the Birmingham metro area, can be overwhelming. She says they can easily find themselves without answers, money or support and not know where to turn.

Wilson says the endowed scholarship, along with mentoring support from the AAFA, will go a long way to helping those students find the assistance and assurance they need to know that help is available – and a chance at a better life is right around the corner.

“We want them to know we’re here,” Wilson says. “While we may not be able to help them with their specific challenge, we are here to help guide them to someone who may be able to help.”

Daphne Powell, major gifts officer for stewardship and Honors Program fundraising, helped the AAFA develop the endowed scholarship agreement along with counsel Edward Kennedy. Powell says the group’s effort to reach out into the Birmingham metro area to help students is both noble and crucial to the area’s future.

“Keeping our local talent here is so critical to our economy and our local area,” Powell says. “It’s truly exceptional that the AAFA is helping to do that by targeting the greater Birmingham community.”

Contributions can be made to the AAFA in two ways. Checks can be made payable to the UAB AAFA Endowment, Attn: UAB Gift Records, AB1230. Payroll deduction is also an option employees can choose.

For more information on the scholarship, contact Powell at 934-1807 or Inquiries for the AAFA should be directed to Wilson at