Meeting Scholarship Donors: An Unforgettable Experience for Recipients

Rakia Braggs ’15

A casual lunch at the Pannill Student Center’s Ham & Jam Pub sounds like a typical experience for any Mary Baldwin College Student, but for Rakia Braggs ’15 and Courtney Harris ’14, one such visit brought a newfound appreciation for the Mary Kathleen Shuford Memorial Scholarship, an award with which they were honored in 2011–12 and 2012–13. Last spring, founding donors Charlie and Mildred “Mickey” Shuford met the recipients for lunch and will likely make another visit in April. “Meeting the Shufords made the experience of receiving the scholarship much more personal,” said Braggs, “it ceased to be a title and money — it became human, and that made it more meaningful.”

Braggs is a communication major with an emphasis in public speaking, and she is minoring in Asian studies. On campus she serves as a peer mentor to probationary students and as a member of the Honor Council. Most recently, she participated in the MBC Live Election on the logistics and technology team. She hopes to study abroad in Japan or Korea during her remaining college tenure. “I dream big—my greatest aspiration is to work for an international company in Asia,” she said.

Excitement and nerves ran high prior to meeting the Shufords, who established the scholarship in memory of their daughter, Mary Kathleen Shuford ’83. Braggs was nervous and wanted to make a good impression, but she was soon put at ease. “I felt at home with them — we enjoyed each other’s company,” she said.

Courtney Harris ’14

Harris was also anxious to make a favorable impression on the couple. “I really wanted them to know how much I care and that I was highly appreciative of the award,” she said. A biology major with plans to enter graduate school in the future, Harris wanted to relay that she is academically driven.  She works in Grafton Library as an assistant, is a member of various student honor societies, and has served on the Honor Council in the past.  In her free time, she enjoys volunteering in the community. Meeting the scholarship’s establishing donors gave the achievement elevated meaning for Harris. “Getting to know the Shufords was an amazing, motivating experience; when someone invests time and money into you, it encourages you to step up your game even more,” she said.

The Shufords have met every recipient of the Mary Kathleen Shuford Memorial Scholarship since its inception in 1989 and have enjoyed each encounter. Their daughter, Mary, made many friends at MBC. She remained devoted to the college after graduation and was a valued member of the Alumnae/i Association. She received the Emily Wirsing Kelly Leadership Award posthumously in 1989, and her legacy continues to make a difference in people’s lives.

Just as learning about the origin of the scholarship enhances the honor for the students, the Shufords enjoy seeing their philanthropy and memorial in action — ensuring students continue to prosper at the college their daughter loved dearly. “It is rewarding to see their enthusiasm, and we are astounded by their academic workloads,” said Mickey and Charlie Shuford, “certainly all of this enhances our role as Mary’s parents and as donors for the scholarship, but we are only a small part of the donor base. We remain grateful for the generosity of so many people.”