New scholarship recognizes minority STEM students

The Bernie L. Bates Foundation has been awarding academic scholarships and book grants since its inception in 1995. But there was always an urge to create a more lasting legacy.

“We just didn’t want to give out money all the time,” said Duke Haggins, the foundation’s vice president. “We wanted to support a cause. We don’t want to do this just for now, we want to do this years from now, even if we’re not here.”

So the foundation, with the Psi Alpha Alpha Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., created the Bernie L. Bates and Psi Alpha Alpha Chapter Scholarship Endowment. The goal is to recognize, with $1,000 scholarships, the scholastic achievements of minority undergraduates at George Mason University who pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

That the endowment is tied to George Mason is not an accident.

The Bates Foundation, located in Alexandria, Va., has long admired the academic and community achievements of Mason’s Eta Delta Delta Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Haggins said. The chapter recently received a service award from Fairfax County’s BeFriend-A-Child program for its mentorship of local youths.

“They always talk about the environment [at Mason], that it’s a great place to be on campus,” Haggins said of Eta Delta Delta’s members. “We could not think of a better place to [establish an endowment] than at a great organization like George Mason.”

Scholarship recipients will be chosen by Mason’s Office of Student Financial Aid, which will use criteria provided by the foundation. Though the scholarship is open to all students, Craig Spraggins, president of Psi Alpha Alpha, which is the overseeing graduate chapter of Eta Delta Delta, said the strong recommendation is for it to be awarded to a male minority. Recipients must have at least a 3.0 GPA.

“We want to promote both males and females,” Spraggins said. “But being a male organization, it is vital we do our part to assist in that regard.”

“This award is just the type of scholarly support that the fraternity is known for and is desperately needed at an institution like George Mason,” said Professor Rodney Hopson, Eta Delta Delta’s university advisor. “As a relatively young institution, [Mason] needs more support geared toward male students of color whose interest lay in science.”

Isaiah West, president of Eta Delta Delta, said the endowment and scholarships are what his fraternity is all about.

“I like the fact that we’re so dedicated to the betterment of minorities and the community around us,” the senior kinesiology major said. “I couldn’t be any more proud of what our chapter and our graduate chapter has been able to do.”