SANFORD - Dr. John Williamson, of Davidson, has established Central Carolina Community College endowments in memory of his wife and in honor of his cousin.
Dr. Williamson, Biology faculty emeriti at Davidson College, established one scholarship in honor of his late wife, Marcia Van Dusen Williamson, and another to honor his cousin, Lynda F. Turbeville of Sanford, who serves as the CCCC Foundation Chair.
Dr. Williamson says that he and his wife were raised working on farms and they knew that they wanted to have more opportunities. "Education was our way to realize those opportunities. I did well in high school and received a scholarship to attend N.C. State. I received a degree in Biology and received a fellowship to attend Cornell University. I met Marcia while I was in Ithaca working on my Masters' and we married and had our first child there," he said.
"Marcia had attended business/secretarial school in Rochester so she helped support our family by typing dissertations and theses for other graduate students. During our life together, she was my partner in everything -- from raising a family, struggling to live on a professor's salary, saving money for a house and putting three kids through college. She supported me when I couldn't find a job in the U.S. after completing my Ph.D. and we moved to Canada -- the farthest we had ever been from our families," he said.
Once they were empty nesters, Dr. Williamson said they traveled the U.S. and Canada to visit friends and family. "I got interested in genealogy when I retired and we met more relatives than I knew existed," he said. "Marcia was always ready to go on a road trip to meet new kin. Marcia was also my favorite bridge partner -- we learned to play while in Ithaca and as we got older, we played competitively. We passed our love for games and cards on to our children and grandchildren."
It was at a genealogical event where he met Lynda F. Turbeville. "I met Lynda at a meeting of the Genealogy Society of Southeastern North Carolina when we were both working on our family pedigrees. We were surprised to find out that we were related," he said, noting that they found her great-grandmother and his great-grandfather were siblings. "I haven't known Lynda for very long, but I will tell you that she is a fiercely independent woman who has a heart of gold and is always willing to help people."
Ms. Turbeville said her cousin is one of the most intelligent people she has ever known. "Yet, he is so down to earth and I have enjoyed many wonderful conversations with him. He has been an invaluable help to me in researching my family's genealogy and very generous in sharing his research with others," she said.
"[CCCC Foundation Executive Director] Dr. Emily Carter Hare called one day and told me that she would like to come by my home to tell me something. I had no idea that she had been working with John to endow a scholarship in my honor. My husband, Samuel Gaskins, was aware of it but they were all good at keeping the secret," said Ms. Turbeville. "When Emily told me, I was stunned and then I started to cry. It was the most incredibly generous gift that I have ever received -- to know that there will always be a scholarship at Central Carolina Community College to assist single mothers to obtain their educational goals. I am still humbled over the honor of the Lynda F. Turbeville Scholarship for Single Mothers.
"Recently, I received a letter from this year's recipient of the scholarship. She told me of the financial struggles that she has faced with raising a young child and that she could not see how she was going to continue. 'I had no money, no hope and my heart was full of sadness.' She was then awarded the scholarship and will continue her studies to become a nurse. 'I will be able to give back and serve my community as well as take care of my daughter.' My heart was so full to know that Cousin John's incredible gift to me is helping other people to change their lives," said Ms. Turbeville.
Dr. Williamson has fond memories of his teaching career, including teaching freshmen and helping introduce them to college life. "I always encouraged them to take advantage of the courses available to them, to branch out and take classes that weren't in their field but were of interest to them. I also encouraged them to talk to the professors by attending office hours or staying after class to learn more about the work the professor was doing and to find out about opportunities that may be available to students. In addition to taking advantage of academic pursuits," he said.
"I also encouraged students to enjoy the social activities that college has to offer -- attend a basketball game, join a group or organization, be active in the community by volunteering. I always enjoyed meeting my students and learning more about them and their background and interests. This interaction allowed me to help them identify opportunities to further their academic goals and future potential employment opportunities. It also helped us to develop a rapport in case they were struggling and needed help -- they knew they could reach out and I would help them with their problem, no matter what it was."
Dr. Emily C. Hare, Executive Director of the CCCC Foundation, said: "Words cannot describe how appreciative we are of John's big heart and generosity. As a retired faculty member from Davidson College, John knows the power of education and how it can change a person's life. His investment in the Foundation with two endowments will change lives of our students forever, especially our students who are single mothers. I am grateful that John decided to recognize his cousin, the Foundation's current board chair, Lynda Turbeville, who was also a single mother at one point in her life. The first recipient has already been named and she is pursuing her degree in nursing. I cannot say thank you enough!"
The CCCC Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization affiliated with, but independent of, the college. It receives donations of money and equipment on behalf of CCCC and uses them to promote the educational mission of the college and assist students through scholarships and grants.
"I set up this scholarship to help individuals who were like me and my wife -- those who come from families that can't afford to send them to school but who want to get an education. Education has always been important in my family -- my mother instilled that in me and my siblings. However, I was raised on a tobacco farm so money was in short supply. I knew if I wanted an education, I was going to have to find a way to pay for it myself. These scholarships are a way for me to pay it forward -- I received scholarships and fellowships to get the education I wanted and I would like to do that for others," said Dr. Williamson.
Ms. Turbeville noted: "My life has been blessed beyond measure to know Dr. John Williamson."
For information on giving to the CCCC Foundation, contact Dr. Emily C. Hare, Executive Director of the CCCC Foundation, 919-718-7230, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. John Williamson (center) visits with his cousin, Lynda F. Turbeville (left) of Sanford, who serves as the CCCC Foundation Chair, and Dr. Emily C. Hare (right), CCCC Foundation Executive Director.