In Honor of Ancestors: A Family Remembers

Faith SandlerAdvocacy and Policy, Awards to Students, Community, Democracy, Giving, Impact, Words of Faith

I have a story for you. We’ve received word of a gift totaling $17,000 we will receive in the coming month or two. But that’s the middle of the story.

In 2003, Regina Edwards began talking about creating a Designated Scholar Loan Fund. I knew Regina as a deep thinker and a determined woman, but I did not know anything about her family history or the investments she’d carefully tended during her years as a social worker.

In careful concert with her sister and nieces, Regina documented the family history and began providing for the fund. She imagined a lasting memorial to her family’s legacy in this community, and a continued loyalty to a high school deeply treasured.

The Casswell Philip and Sally Blackwell Diggs Designated Scholar Loan Fund is awarded with preference to graduates of St. Louis’ storied Sumner High School who are attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Many prominent black St. Louisans went on to advanced degrees and successful careers as professionals and leaders thanks to Sumner’s rigorous college preparation curriculum. Casswell Philip and Sally Blackwell Diggs had ten descendants who graduated from Sumner between 1898 and 1969:

Harriet Diggs Edwards (1898)
Lydia Diggs Feugh (1900)
Clara Diggs Whitson (1926)
Gladys Diggs Bradic (1928)
Lawrence Andrew Madison (1931)
Edna Edwards Pritchett (1934)
Regina Antoinette Edwards (1935)
Elaine Hughes Tucker (1958)
Edna Jean Pritchett Smith (1964)
Harriet Pritchett Grigsby (1969)

Regina, a graduate of Talladega College, knew well the importance of HBCUs both historically (when college was a forcibly segregated environment) and in the current era (when the strength and support of a black academic community remains critical). Casswell Philip and Sally Blackwell Diggs Scholars have attended:

Alabama A & M University
Fisk University
Langston University
Morehouse College
Tuskegee University
University of Louisiana-Monroe

Among the scholars assisted thus far are: an aspiring veterinarian; an international studies major fluent in French who studied abroad in Ghana; a psychology major hoping to work in the developmental disabilities field; a nurse; and, a pharmacist.

Regina Edwards passed away in 2004, leaving a legacy of commitment to public schooling and to serving the needs of others. Thirteen years later, Marshall and Harriet Pritchett Grigsby have generously refreshed the Casswell Philip and Sally Blackwell Diggs Designated Scholar Loan Fund through personal gifts and designated gifts from Strada Education Network. In the future, scholars will know that their interest-free loans originate with this family, and that they join a long line of proud Sumner graduates and students of HBCUs.

This is a story of messages from our ancestors and faith in the future.

– Faith Sandler