As a student at Furman University, McKenna Luzynski has twirled in the marching band, worked as a news editor, and served as an admissions ambassador. By the time she graduates this spring, she'll have earned a Bachelor of Science in Public Health, a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and a minor in Latin American Studies.
“I wanted to make it a packed four years,” she said earlier this summer. “These honestly have been the best years of my life.”
McKenna attends Furman with a James B. Duke Scholarship, a merit-based award that goes to eight incoming students each year. Funded by The Duke Endowment, it covers full tuition over four years, along with one stipend for a study away experience and another for a summer internship or research project.
Selected students – typically in the top 1 or 2 percent of the applicant pool – arrive on campus with exceptional academic records and a proven commitment to service and leadership.
“These scholarships are a beacon to our highest achieving students, young men and women selected for their stellar academic credentials and meaningful engagement beyond the classroom,” says W. Michael Hendricks, the university's vice president for enrollment management. “They know Furman will be a place where they will flourish.”
Making Education Affordable
The awards are named in honor of The Duke Endowment's founder, a philanthropist who had little formal education himself, but wanted to increase academic opportunities for others. When he established his private foundation in 1924, he specified that a significant portion of the funds be awarded to four schools: Davidson College, Duke University and Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina and Furman in South Carolina.
Over the years, the Endowment has worked closely with each institution to make education more affordable. In response to Mr. Duke’s sentiment that education opens doors to the future, the Endowment has supported scholarships and financial aid efforts to help ensure access and attainment.
The Endowment began funding the James B. Duke Scholarship at Furman in 1980 and since then more than 200 students have graduated as scholars. In 2015, the foundation awarded a $22.4 million multi-year grant to help strengthen the scholarship for the future.
The Duke Endowment supports four schools of higher education: Davidson College, Duke University and Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina and Furman University in South Carolina. Over the years, it has worked closely with each institution to make education more affordable for qualified students.
In addition to the James B. Duke Scholarship at Furman, the Endowment also supports:
- The James B. Duke Scholarship at Davidson and Johnson C. Smith. It’s based on academic excellence, but each school administers the scholarship differently.
- The Angier B. Duke Scholarship, offered at Duke University. Created by Benjamin and Sarah Duke to honor their son, Angier Buchanan Duke, it’s based on academic merit and outstanding promise of achievement. Scholars are selected nationally and internationally.
- The B.N. Duke Scholarship at Duke University. Established by the Endowment in 1985, this merit award is designed to help the school attract top students from the Carolinas. The program’s namesake is Benjamin Newton Duke, James B. Duke’s brother.
The bulk of the grant will bolster the program’s endowment. The remaining amount is operational funding that will provide enhanced programming on campus and stipends to help prepare the scholars for life after graduation. Last year, campus activities included dining together, screening films, and tackling a ropes course.
“Any James B. Duke Scholar on campus is probably involved in five or six activities, carrying incredibly demanding class schedules and maintaining extraordinarily high GPAs, so we have to find the right balance,” says David Funderburk, program coordinator for the James B. Duke “Community of Scholars.”
Scott Henderson, the program’s director, agrees.
“These students are making significant contributions to campus life,” he says. “In many cases, this is where they want to start making a difference, and that will continue after they leave.”
Max Dudley, from Phenix City, Ala., is one of the eight new James B. Duke Scholars at Furman this year. In high school, he wrote for the school newspaper and literary magazine, served on the honor council and in the student government association, taught in an after-school tennis clinic for special needs athletes, and worked for a local food bank. Max is anxious to get involved at Furman as well – on top of studying philosophy, Chinese, economics, English and art history.
“Furman was my top choice, so I was very excited when I heard that I had been selected as a James B. Duke Scholar,” he says. “It will give me amazing opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
‘Life Changing for Me’
In 2014, as McKenna was looking at colleges, Furman rose to the top for its strong health sciences department. But finding enough financial support was a big worry.
“I was afraid to fall in love and not be able to afford it,” she says. “When I got the call saying, ‘Congratulations, you're being offered a Duke Scholarship,’ I couldn't believe that everything was falling into place. Realistically, without this award, I wouldn't be at Furman today.”
This summer, McKenna served as an intern with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control in Columbia. She researched childhood blood lead levels and food deserts; she also studied adult blood lead levels and occupational exposures, disinfection by-products and water quality, and fish consumption and pregnancy outcomes.
The job was unpaid, but her James B. Duke stipend made it financially feasible.
Ten years from now, after graduate school, she sees herself working in a Spanish-speaking community in the field of global environmental health.
“Every step of my journey,” McKenna says, “from coming to Furman, to leaving Furman, and everything in between, has been life changing for me because of this scholarship.”
Learn more about the James B. Duke Scholarship at Furman University.
Susan L. McConnell
Director, Higher Education