Parmer Scholars establish foundation

Published 4:50 pm Friday, May 8, 2009

33 retired educators, businessmen, and doctors, among other professions, gathered at First Baptist Church in Greenville last Saturday as part of the first annual W.O. Parmer Scholars Reunion.

452 senior high school students from Butler, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Covington, Lowndes, and Wilcox Counties have been beneficiaries of the W.O. Parmer Scholarship since its inception in 1936. The event was more than just a reunion, however, as scholars discussed the organization of a Parmer Scholars Foundation to help augment funds currently available in the trust.

Walter Ray Parmer, Parmer Scholarship recipient and of W.O. Parmer, said the foundation has four goals:

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– To provide additional funds to supplement the Parmer scholarships.

– To endow a professorship of southern economic development at each of the three universities that students can attend under the guidelines of the Parmer Scholarship: Auburn, Alabama and Vanderbilt.

– To conduct an annual reunion, with sites to rotate.

– To maintain and scholars database and website.

“An even greater effect of this effort will be a nationwide network of Parmer scholars,” said Parmer. “We live in 30 states plus, at least, two other countries. This network can provide emotional support to current recipients during the freshmen year.”

Parmer said he benefited by knowing fellow Butler County natives, Carl Ferguson and Joseph Talmadge, when he arrived at Vanderbilt in 1956.

“Had this support not been provided, I would have returned home in two months,” he said.

W.O. Parmer established a $500,000 trust in 1925 to provide scholarships for students in Butler and the adjoining counties. The 1929 stock market crash slashed these funds in half. Students are given $3,000 to attend Alabama or Auburn, and $7,500 to attend Vanderbilt, a far cry from the initial scholarships awarded of $750 to Vanderbilt and $500 to Auburn.