In 2013, as he approached his 50th Reunion, Floyd H. Duncan’64, who was a professor in the Department of Economics and Business from 1978 to his retirement in 2013 and headed the department from 2005 to 2013, decided to establish a scholarship, which he saw as “an opportunity to repay a debt long overdue.”
By “debt,” Duncan is referring to the private support that allowed him to attend VMI. In high school, Duncan was interest in attending VMI, but it was unattainable financially until his high-school principal contacted the local state senator, J. Hubert Wheeler, who recommended Duncan for a state cadetship, which paid tuition and board, and a scholarship from the C. Bascom Slemp Foundation.
Near the end of Duncan’s third class year, a fertilizer company offered him a scholarship offer—and the Slemp Foundation offered an extension of its scholarship support. With the corporation providing him the money for his last two years as a chemistry major at VMI, Duncan declined the Slemp Foundation’s offer and thanked them for their support. One thing stuck with him, however. “In its letter, the Slemp Foundation suggested that, one day, I might be able to provide the same opportunity for some other deserving young person.”
As a professor at VMI, Duncan saw scholarships’ positive effects in his own academic department. One stood out in particular. “I had seen the good things my department had done with the scholarship established by Bob McDowell ’68, which is awarded based on a combination of academic merit and financial need. One of the department’s top-ranking cadets, whose family circumstances were not unlike mine, received help from the McDowell Scholarship for most of his cadetship.”
These experiences convinced Duncan to model his scholarship along the lines of McDowell’s. For him, however, whatever their specifics, scholarships boil down to one salient fact. “Scholarships,” he said, “provide opportunities for young people to attend VMI. Considering the VMI education’s many positive effects, there are few ways to have a more profound effect on the lives of young people than that.”