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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Clara Chavis Bullard: Endowed scholarship established by 1947 UNCP graduate

In her college days, Clara Chavis was editor of the yearbook and a member of the band and basketball team.

Clara Bullard Scholarship – Clara Bullard, second from right, poses with Chancellor Meadors and her children, Keith Bullard and Alisa Tanner.

Clara Bullard Scholarship – Clara Bullard, second from right, poses with Chancellor Meadors and her children, Keith Bullard and Alisa Tanner.

The 1947 Indianhead yearbook has a picture of her in the Lover’s Club with future husband, Reese Bullard, who had returned from the war to compete work on his degree.

Her parents, Oscar and Margie Chavis farmed in south Robeson, raised 14 children and scrapped together enough money to pay Clara’s $14 tuition bill. Clara did light housekeeping duties on campus to pay room and board.

Clara and Reese married and moved to Detroit where they raised a family, and she taught elementary school. It was a busy time.

Bullard remains involved with The University of North Carolina at Pembroke as a member of the Chancellor’s Club, an elite group of University supporters, and is currently serving on its Advisory Board.

On April 20, Bullard posed for photographs with Chancellor Allen C. Meadors, her son, Keith and daughter, Alisa Tanner, and finalized an endowed scholarship worth more than $36,000.

Named in honor of her parents, the Oscar and Margie Chavis Endowed Memorial Scholarship will help other students pay tuition to attend UNCP.

“My parents were farm people,” she said. “If I had it to do it over again, I would grow up on a farm and pick the same parents. It was in my heart to do this for them.”

Leafing through the 1947 yearbook, memories bubble to the surface.

“I loved basketball. I was taller than most of the girls,” Bullard said. “I still have a goal in my yard, and I play in the Senior Games.”

During the war years, Pembroke State College was a different place.

“I started at the University in ‘43,” she said. “I am sure we did not have 50 students. When the war ended, it more than doubled with the men returning.”

That was the first year the college played football, she said. After college, Clara and Reese Bullard followed several of her brothers to the Detroit area, where the men worked in the factories and steel mills.

“I majored in English and science, but I never taught those subjects,” she said laughing. “I wasn’t there two or three days when I took my daughter to school in Southgate (Mich.). I spoke with the principal in the morning, and I started work that afternoon.”

She would teach for 28 years before returning to Robeson County to help raise her grandson following the tragic death of her daughter, Clarise Johnson. Grandson Adam followed in the footsteps of his grandparents and mother (a 1970 graduate) to graduate in 1995.

Reese Bullard passed away on June 25, 2005. Clara retains close connections to the University and to Hickory Grove United Methodist Church, near McColl, S.C.

The family has a long history with UNCP, including the endowed scholarship that will remain a perpetual legacy at the University.

“This scholarship is a testament to your love of education and to your parents who made great sacrifices so you could attend the University,” said Teresa Oxendine, director of Donor Relations.

Chancellor Meadors said students still need financial assistance to realize their dream of a college education.

“Tuition is a little more than $14 today, but we are still one of the best bargains in higher education,” Chancellor Meadors. “This gift is so meaningful for so many students far into the future.”

For more information about giving at UNCP, please contact the Office for Advancement at 910.521.6252 or email advancement@uncp.edu.

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