In the early 1950s, Bushnell University welcomed its first African American student. James Covington studied and lived on campus until 1953, during the earliest stirrings of the civil rights movement in the United States.

Our first African American graduate, Walter York ’56 from Hemet, Calif., completed his degree just one year later in 1956. York went on to attend Phillips Graduate Seminary in Oklahoma and became a Navy chaplain, but died tragically early while serving his country in Okinawa, Japan. Upon his death in 1964, the “Walter York Memorial Scholarship Fund” was established to help Effie and Joseph Blair from Bloomington, Ill. attend Bushnell university. In an appeal to donors, then-President Dr. Ross Griffith said, “All of the current interest in civil rights may be a beating of the air unless we provide adequately educated Christian leaders to share the gospel with those who have been so shamefully neglected by our Christian churches.”

It is not certain that this scholarship existed beyond its benefit to the Blairs. Though the University does maintain some endowed scholarships intended to encourage the educational experience of students of color on campus, it is our commitment today to revive the Walter York Memorial Scholarship in perpetuity to honor the memory of, and celebrate, our first African American graduate. Members of the Board of Trustees have committed to fuel the effort to reach the fund’s minimum corpus of $25,000. To date, the Board has committed $12,000.

Help us reach our goal for this endowed scholarship by making a gift to the Walter York Scholarship Fund.