Walker Freeman: Honoring Alumna Grandmother’s Legacy

Former students fund Walker Freeman and other GSU students today 

GSU Alumni Association makes impact with expanded scholarship offerings

Walker Freeman cut his college costs at Georgia State University partly by living with his grandmother in Roswell. He still needed financial aid and told her that he was disappointed that he didn’t qualify for grants like the GSU Alumni Legacy Scholarship because no one in the family had graduated from GSU.

Dora Freeman, a former teacher, corrected him: She had received her master of education degree from GSU in 1976 –  a decade before he was born.

For her, the financial implications of higher education were different but still significant.

“I thought it would be beneficial in what I was teaching in middle school in north Fulton County,” she said in a recent interview. “A master’s degree was beneficial salary-wise and in determining what my retirement pay would be. Although the desire to enhance my abilities as a teacher came first, the financial benefits influenced my decision as well. ”

Her grandson Walker won the scholarship, among the recently increased number offered through the GSU Alumni Association.

“With the rising cost of tuition, scholarships are vital for many students. As a campus organization, what better way to support Georgia State?” said GSU Alumni Association Assistant Vice President Christina Million (M.S., 2000).

Last year, the Alumni Association expanded the scholarships to recognize achievement and provide opportunity for GSU students.  “These scholarships also show alumni how their contributions matter here and help GSU create a lifelong relationship with students,” she said.

The scholarships include the:

Alumni Legacy Scholarship, for a child or grandchild of a GSU alumnus or alumna.

Transfer Student Scholarship, for students coming from a community college or junior college with at least a 3.0 GPA.

Max M. Cuba Scholarship, based on financial need, scholastic achievement and character.

Willie Mae Cathcart Scholarship, for undergraduate students with financial need and a high school GPA of at least 3.0 or better, with preference given to graduates of Georgia high schools.

Walker Freeman and other alumni scholarship recipients said the funding made an important impact in their educational costs. The scholarships made them aware of the work and sacrifices of GSU students in previous generations.

For Freeman, his grandmother’s connection to GSU was a big bonus to what she had already given him – a place to live and home-cooked meals like fried chicken.

She helped him get on his feet after a major car accident in 2008. When he graduated from GSU in late 2011, he moved out of her home to be closer to his internship with  Deloitte in Atlanta. He plans to return for a graduate degree in accounting at GSU.

“She’s done so much for me, and I’ll be forever grateful,” he said. “She’s given me a perpetual education from the time I first went to her home. She and my grandfather would always correct my grammar and spelling, and play games like Scrabble, Boggle and Mastermind. I’m a math guy, and I know my writing skills would not be what they are today without the support that she and my grandfather provided by encouraging me to think outside the box.”

“She didn’t lecture on the importance of education – she pushed me through her actions.”

For Dora Freeman, the legacy scholarship was another benefit from GSU to her family. In the 1970s, she was a mother of three who pursued her master’s degree through classes that GSU professors held in north Fulton County so students like her could easily attend.

“We had the privilege of professors coming out to high schools and middle schools, setting up in those classrooms,” she said. Seeing her grandson go to GSU reminded her of her own “late night studying and papers that were due.”

“When I found out that she had attended night school to get her master’s, it made me respect her that much more,” her grandson said.

For Sang-Yoon Kim, the Transfer Student Scholarship helped him financially as he pursues an undergraduate degree in accounting at GSU to go with his associate’s degree in business administration from Georgia Perimeter College.

“A big city is generally the center of new ideas, commerce and culture of a region where that city is located, and I believed that I would benefit from studying in such an environment,” Kim said. “It was a big help to me because I promised my parents that I will try my best to afford tuition all by myself. Thanks to the scholarship, I have lived up to my promise so far.”

Latifah Williams, a sophomore education major from Augusta, received the Max M. Cuba Scholarship, named for the former president of the Alumni Association. “I come from a single-mother, low-income home, and I think affording my education would be impossible without scholarships such as the Max M. Cuba Scholarship,” she said.

Her goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in her field as she works as a school principal.

“This scholarship is promoting education, and I am an advocate for education and higher education,” Williams said.

Olushola Nadine Cole, a sophomore Honors student who grew up in Sierra Leone before moving to Fayette County, was awarded the Willie Mae Cathcart Scholarship, named for a GSU alumna. The funds help Cole pay for textbooks needed for classes at the Byrdine F. Lewis School of Nursing and Health Professions, where she is a nursing student.

“The alumni who gave these scholarships didn’t just go through Georgia State and think, ‘I have my degree and goodbye,’ “ Cole said.

“They came back and gave to make a difference to us, the present students here. Georgia State meant more to them than just a diploma – it made an impact in their lives. These scholarships make sure that we present students get a similar experience, or even a better one, if possible.”

Kim agreed. “Those former GSU students who made this scholarship possible probably had been helped by their predecessors,” he said. “I think this is a great tradition. I am going to be obligated to help my successors too.”

—By Michelle Hiskey; Contact Kim Cretors, (404) 413-3424