Spelman College, the historically Black liberal arts college for women in Atlanta, received a pledge from alumna and professor Beverly Guy-Sheftall to establish the Levi Watkins Jr. Scholars Program. The program will offer two $25,000 scholarships to Spelman College students who are advocates for the rights of LGBTQ students in academia and particularly at HBCUs. The scholarships will be renewable for the students as they complete their education at Spelman College.
Dr. Watkins, who died in 2015 (See JBHE post), was a cousin of Professor Guy-Sheftall. Dr. Watkins was the first African American graduate of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He was associated with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for 43 years, first as an intern and then as a faculty member until his retirement in 2013. He was the first doctor to implant an automatic heart defibrillator in a patient.
In addition to the scholarships, the college will establish a companion lecture series that will explore contemporary issues of race, gender, and sexuality. Mary Schmidt Campbell, president of Spelman College stated that the lecture series “will present new opportunities for critical conversation on race and sexuality with distinguished scholars and thought leaders, and provide a platform to recognize campus LGBTQ advocates and their scholarly achievements.”