By Ianna Fenton
Howard University News Service
At least three sophomores will be eligible to receive up to $20,000 annually for three years under a new $1.5 million scholarship endowment. TIAA, The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America-College Retirement Equities Fund, donated the gift and named it after former TIAA CEO Roger W. Ferguson Jr., who has family ties to Howard.
The honor came as a surprise for Ferguson, the first African American to serve as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and former economic advisor to President Barack Obama.
Ferguson says there had been talks of naming the scholarship after him, but nothing was ever solidified until a couple weeks ago.
“I was just really blown away, so I was not part of the process,” he said. “I’d actually forgotten that this was in the works. I was speechless at the fact that this actually got done and was done with such a magnitude that it actually can be an endowment.”
The endowment provides a permanent source of funding for Howard’s Graduation Retention Access to Continued Excellence (GRACE) program. Under the Ferguson-TIAA GRACE Scholars fund, scholarships will be granted to sophomores, beginning in the 2022-2023 school year. It will pay up to $20,000 for tuition for at least three students who remain on track to graduate in four years, maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA and have an expected family contribution as low as zero. students who demonstrate clear financial need and who have completed their freshman year.
With the challenges of the current school year including protests, cyberattacks and bomb threats, this scholarship is expected to bring relief to students in need. Jaiden Coleman, a sophomore in the School of Business, says that the scholarship could have lasting effects for Howard students.
“Sadly, students have to embrace the hardships of COVID-19 and are not fully able to reap the full benefits of the college experience due to the inability to afford school,” Coleman said. “With the possibility of getting a $20k scholarship, I find it very feasible that students take the opportunity.”
Raised in Washington, Ferguson understands the culture of Howard as multiple family members have attended the university and contributed to its stature. His father, mother, sister, aunt and uncle all went to Howard and made tremendous strides in their fields. For example, his aunt, Angela Ferguson, is a graduate of the Howard University School of Medicine and is known for her research on sickle cell disease.
With Howard being such a staple in the life of Ferguson and his family, he says he is pleased that the scholarship is being established at a school where he has such a strong connection.
“The famous Howard homecoming was something we’d look forward to, and we were over there carrying on like everyone else,” Ferguson said, adding that Howard has “just been an important part of who we are and who I am personally.”
“It is without a doubt in my mind the leading HBCU, with all due respect to all the other great ones.”
Charisma Swain, a junior health science major, says she is happy to see more opportunities for incoming students. “It makes me happy to see these opportunities extended to students especially with all the changes and added stress from COVID, housing and other events, on top of the initial academic stress we get.”
Swain also says it is important that this gift is named after someone who has personal ties to Howard.
Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, president of Howard University, called Ferguson “a pillar in our society” and “a voice for the less fortunate.”
It is Ferguson’s hope that this scholarship can provide some relief and that it expands to help more students.
“I’ve been very fortunate in life and the ability to speak for others, advocate for others, in this case, you know financial support for others is really critically important.”