When journalist Herbert Denton Jr. died suddenly in 1989, his Washington Post colleagues were heartbroken. A distinguished reporter, editor and foreign correspondent who was a champion of black achievement in his profession and mentor to numerous black journalists, Denton was remembered by colleague Juan Williams. “What Denton did was to establish black journalists at The Post and make a way for black journalists in the future in a way no lawsuits and no rhetoric have ever approached,” Williams wrote in a Post column at the time. “And in the process, he increased the newspaper’s awareness of black Washington. This…puts him among the legends of journalism.”
Another Washington legend – former Washington Post publisher Donald E. Graham – along with coworkers such as Milton Coleman, came up with a fitting way to honor their friend: the Herbert H. Denton, Jr. Memorial Scholarship.
The scholarship has been awarded annually since 1990 to a graduating senior from a list of participating area high schools. Criteria include general character and academic achievement, demonstrated ability in non-fiction writing, and financial need. The 2018 scholar, Rhema Jones, is a graduate of KIPP DC College Preparatory and will begin at McDaniel College this fall. Past scholars have graduated from colleges large and small, private and public, and have gone on to careers in medicine, investment banking, education, government, public health, journalism and others. Alumni who make up “the Denton Scholar family” include Curtiland Deville, clinical director and chair of Sibley radiation oncology at Johns Hopkins; Erin Michele Roberts, a published short story writer; and Benjamin de la Piedra, who teaches oral history workshops and is writing a biography of Denton, among many others.
Graham established a scholarship fund with the Greater Washington Community Foundation in 2004. Since then, The Community Foundation “has been an ideal partner,” said Graham. The staff “couldn’t be more helpful.”
Pam Kendrick, a former Post employee who serves as administrator of the scholarship program and works closely with The Community Foundation staff, agrees, adding that the fund pays for everything from tuition to room and board (including off-campus housing and study abroad) to the many expenses that financial aid does not typically cover, such as books, computers and other school supplies.
“We take away the worry – for both the donor and for the scholars,” says Amina Anderson, The Community Foundation’s Director, DC Office of Philanthropy and Donor Services. “That way the donor can focus on awarding scholarships and the students can focus on their education.” The Community Foundation manages several scholarship funds in a variety of ways, from administering payments and managing assets to being involved in the selection of scholars.
“The Denton scholarship has brought a lot of really impressive young people into the Washington community – doctors, lawyers, businesspeople,” Graham said. Equally impressive, he adds, is that they are “very dedicated to those who come after them.” For instance, when one candidate said she wanted to be a doctor but didn’t know anyone to talk to about the field, a former scholar who is a physician came forward and offered to guide her. It left her speechless. That is the power of the Denton Scholar family.
Coleman heads the selection committee. “For some,” he says, “the scholarship has meant being able to go to a four-year college, instead of a community college. For others, it meant graduating from an Ivy League school with no debt. And for some, it meant the difference between going to college – or not going at all.”
Learn more about the life of Herbert Denton and the scholarship fund named in his honor by visiting www.dentonscholars.org.
Starting a scholarship fund at the Greater Washington Community Foundation is easy and rewarding, and the best part is that students, their families and communities will benefit from your generosity for years to come. For more information about creating a scholarship fund at The Community Foundation, please contact us at 202-955-5890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.