Delmarva Philanthropist Helps UMES Freshmen Pay for Textbooks

  • Thursday, September 9, 2010

    PRINCESS ANNE, MD - (Sept. 8, 2010) - Five University of Maryland Eastern Shore freshmen are starting their college careers with help from a prominent funeral director on Delmarva.

    Bennie Smith, who owns 12 funeral homes from Chestertown, MD to Exmore, VA, retooled a general scholarship program he started in 2003 and now directs his gift be used to pay for textbooks.

    "Books are so expensive these days - not like when I was in school," said Dr. Francis Gates, who administers the financial aid for Smith. "We thought this would be a way to assist young people with the tools they need to be successful college students."

    Smith pledged $5,000 to lend a hand to five first-year students at UMES for the 2010-11 academic year. Each will receive vouchers worth $500 per semester to defray the cost of books and related expenses.

    Gates, a retired educator, sent letters to 38 high schools on Delmarva seeking applications and coordinated selection of recipients based on financial need.

    "Mr. Smith has always believed in education," Gates said. "He feels strongly about encouraging young people to go on to college."

    This year's Bennie Smith book scholarship recipients at UMES are:

    • Cara Baltimore, North Caroline High School (Denton, MD)
    • DaAndre' Burton, Northampton High School, (Eastville, VA)
    • Briante Dickerson, Nandua High School (Onley, VA)
    • Wayne Heath, Nandua High
    • Arshelle Jackson, North Caroline High

    "I would like to say thank you to Mr. Bennie Smith," said Burton, a criminal justice major. "He's taken a big burden off my mother and step-father in helping me pay for my books."

    An appreciative Heath, also a criminal justice major, said Smith's generosity "made it a little easier to afford furthering my education."

    Smith specifically wanted to help students attending Delmarva's historically black institutions and set up a similar program at Delaware State University in Dover, where he also has a funeral home, Gates said.

     Smith
    DaAndre' Burton, left, Bennie Smith Funeral Home representative, Francis Gates financial aid director
    James Kellam, center, Briante Dickerson and Wayne Heath.

     

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    Bill Robinson, UMES Office of Public Relations, 410-621-2355. wrobinson3@umes.edu

    Gail Stephens, UMES Office of Public Relations, 410-651-7580, gcstephens1@umes.edu