Paying it Forward

Paying it Forward
November 06
00:00 2014

Larry Womble makes hefty donation to start WSSU scholarship in honor of his parents and grandparents

(pictured above:  At the check presentation are (from left) Kirby Thompson, Evelyn Terry, Earline Parmon, Jamaal Womble, Larry Womble and Donald Reaves.)

Former State Rep. Larry Womble presented his alma mater with a $25,000 check last week to create a scholarship named for his grandparents and parents.

The Henry and Viola Gwyn, Dorothy Gwyn and Owen Luchion Womble Endowed Scholarship Fund will provide need-based awards to local students majoring in Elementary Education.

Womble hopes the money will provide opportunities for those who thought higher education was impossible.

“For many of our students, this is their first time going to a higher learning institute. For many, they could be the first in their families,” he said. “Many of them don’t have the resources that others have, so it is up to us as alumnus to try to bridge the gap, because if it wasn’t for Winston-Salem State, I would not have achieved many of things that I have.”

Chancellor Donald Reaves accepted the gift in his office on Wednesday, Oct. 29.

Womble said he wanted education to be the scholarship’s focus because of WSSU’s well-known link to the field: it was the first historically black college in the nation to offer a degree in elementary education. Womble also worked in education for years, starting as a teacher and retiring as an assistant principal.

“Thank you for your gift, generosity and support that you have provided to this institution year in and year out,” Reaves told Womble, who graduate from WSSU in 1963.

Larry Womble shakes hands with Chancellor Donald Reaves.

Larry Womble shakes hands with Chancellor Donald Reaves.

With his son and friends by his side, Womble said he will contribute often to the scholarship fund; he would like to see it grow to $500,000.

“I am going to contribute as much as I can whenever I can,” he said.
He is challenging other alumni to give back to WSSU as well.

“When you give into the scholarship, you are not necessarily helping the school but the students,” he said. “That is what counts in this day and time.” 

He recounted his days as a freshmen at WSSU. He rode the city bus to school and received encouragement from everyone in his neighborhood, especially the elderly. His family was also supportive.

Womble said his grandparents, who raised him, had the biggest influence on him. Henry Gwyn was a railroad worker, while his wife, Viola, was a domestic. They both had only an elementary school level education, but impressed on their grandson the benefits of learning. Womble’s grandparents died more than 30 years ago.

“They were very independent people. They instilled in us a sense of accomplishment, paying back, duty and responsibility for the community and for people in general,” he said. “They valued education although they were not highly educated themselves.”

His mother, Dorothy, a cosmetologist, and father, Owen, an airline laborer, did finish high school. Womble lost his mother in 2010 and his father two years before that.

“They instilled in us that you can accomplish just about anything that you wanted to accomplish but you had to apply yourself and you had to work hard and respect everybody,” Womble said.

State Rep. Evelyn Terry, who is in her first term representing Womble’s former district, the 71st, and State Sen. Earline Parmon joined Womble for the announcement. Womble challenged them to work in the legislature for funding equality for historically black schools. In the last several years, Winston-Salem State has lost $35 million in state funding.

“When you cut a certain amount of millions from the other schools, they can better handle it than HBCUs. When they cut from us, it is major surgery,” Womble said.
Terry accepted the challenge.

“Winston-Salem State University will always be the foremost institution in my mind when it comes to educational appropriations,” she said.

Womble, 73, was a community leader long before his election to the Winston-Salem City Council at age 40. In his teens, as a student at Atkins High School, he was a civil rights activist, taking part in sit-ins and other movements throughout the city.

He represented the Southeast Ward on the City Council for more than 15 years before his election to the N.C. House in 1995. He was in his ninth term in December 2011 when he was badly injured when a vehicle collided with his near his home on Reynolds Park Road. His injuries and subsequent recovery led him to forgo reelection in 2012.

Womble’s longtime friend Kirby Thompson was also on hand. He said the donation is just a small part of Womble’s indelible legacy.

“His legacy here should not just be $25,000, but it should be the root of what started in the ’60s and has continued until this day,” Thompson said.

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Chanel Davis

Chanel Davis

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