New scholarship honors the legacy of an African American trailblazer

Five VCU graduates have teamed up to provide goals and a support system to increase the graduation rate of first-generation students in the School of Business.

Five VCU graduates are honoring the legacy of Oraphine Watkins Crump through a scholarship for fi...
Five VCU graduates are honoring the legacy of Oraphine Watkins Crump through a scholarship for first-generation students enrolled in the School of Business. (Julia Rendleman, University Marketing)

Oraphine Watkins Crump, who died last year at age 96, was an African American woman whose achievements and aspirations were extraordinary for her time. She served as a branch manager of the oldest Black-owned bank in the country, Consolidated Bank and Trust, and was the first Black woman on the New Kent County School Board

Oraphine Watkins Crump
Oraphine Watkins Crump

Now five graduates of Virginia Commonwealth University are honoring her legacy through a scholarship for first-generation students enrolled in the School of Business.

The Oraphine Watkins Crump Scholarship will allow the recipients to work fewer hours in off-campus jobs, allowing them to commit more time to studies and extracurricular activities.

“Our scholarship seemed more important aligned with Oraphine because she was all about education. She was a trailblazer. It’s the perfect name,” said DeMond Chapman, a VCU alum who works for DuPont. Chapman said his parents instilled the value of education in him, and his employer echoed that theme, supporting his M.B.A. degree. “It changed my career trajectory,” he said. “I want to give another person the opportunity to do some of the things I’ve been able to do. Education is a critical way to make life better.”

Chapman and other M.B.A. alums Rodney Taylor, Linda Hines, Akia Jackson and Joel Phillips teamed up to create the $5,000 scholarship.

“We all wanted the same thing separately, but at the same time,” Taylor said. “Then Angela Bartee [assistant director of development at the School of Business] pointed out we’d be more effective working together.

“I have been incredibly blessed,” Taylor said, “so I wanted to do my small part to help keep people focused on education.”

That’s exactly what the scholarship donors hope to do — provide goals and a support system that will increase the graduation rate of first-generation students.

“It’s especially challenging for those who have no direct mentors in the family to serve as role models,” Hines said. “I wanted to pursue my education, but then I wanted to help others.”

The $5,000 will be awarded to a student in their sophomore year and will continue until they receive their diploma. For now, the founders have committed $25,000 over a five-year period, but they hope funding will eventually grow to support more students every year.

“We’re looking for a scholarship applicant who has educational aptitude but also wants to help others,” Hines said. Like Crump, the ideal student will have plans to pay it forward.

“[Crump] really understood the value of education and business acumen at an early age. To advance her position at the bank, she attended night school while she was raising her three children alongside her husband,” Taylor said in an interview with WTVR-TV. “She devoted herself to educational equality and even organized the community response for including more African Americans on the [New Kent] School Board. She did that in partnership with the NAACP and the Civic League. As a result of all of these efforts, Mrs. Crump was appointed to the seat herself. She took it with great pride and served for many, many years.”

Crump’s only granddaughter, Kia Jordan, is also a graduate of VCU’s School of Business. She said her grandmother “would truly be honored that her story can be shared.”

“There’s not a day that goes by I do not hear some of her lessons come out,” Jordan said. “‘Know that nothing is too small of a feat. You can do anything you put your mind to. As long as you have goals and you lean into your support system, you’ll be OK.’ That’s exactly what she did.”

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