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A first-generation college student who first set foot on WCU’s campus in 1983 and has never left, rising through the ranks from incoming freshman to serve as the institution’s second-in-command, has created an endowed scholarship fund in honor of her Jamaica-born parents. Through cash gifts, pledges and an estate gift totaling $50,000, Acting Provost Carol Burton ’87 MAEd ’89 has established a scholarship designed to help international students, especially those from Jamaica, earn graduate degrees at WCU.

Burton said she wanted to honor her parents through the creation of an endowed scholarship because they always encouraged her and her siblings to pursue education. “Education is such a key to success in the Jamaican culture, but access to it is more challenging than in the United States,” she said. “There are community and junior colleges as well as teacher colleges, but only six four-year degree-granting universities on an island of almost 3 million people.”

Burton, who was born in London and moved to Jamaica at age 15, enrolled at WCU after learning of the university through its long-standing partnership with Jamaica’s Ministry of Education that works to prepare Jamaican educators. “While I didn’t enroll at WCU as part of that program, my family became aware of WCU because my mother’s cousin earned her master’s degree in education from WCU in the mid-’70s, and she recommended the institution to my parents,” Burton said. “When I arrived in 1983, more than 40 full-time Jamaican students were enrolled year-round.”

She began her career in 1989 as director of WCU’s Special Programs in the College of Education and Allied Professions, reporting to then-Dean Gurney Chambers ’61. “I have known Carol and followed her career since she was a financially struggling student-worker when I was dean,” Chambers said. “Chancellor David Belcher has said on many occasions that Western Carolina University is ‘in the business of changing lives.’ Carol Burton is a perfect example of why Western has this kind of impact on students.”

Made as part of WCU’s “Lead the Way” fundraising campaign, the Dr. Carol Burton Endowed Scholarship for Graduate Students in Honor of Reuben and Yvonne Burton fund will provide aid to students pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees in any program offered through WCU’s Graduate School. Preference will be given to students from Jamaica.

“Neither of my parents had a college education, and I am the first in my immediate family to earn a bachelor’s degree, much less master’s and doctoral degrees,” Burton said. “Unfortunately, this is fairly typical in Jamaica, so I hope that establishing this scholarship in my parents’ honor will inspire students from Jamaica to pursue graduate studies.”  

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