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Jan. 17, 2008 – A group of influential Utah community leaders is joining with the University of Utah to create the Pastor France A. Davis University of Utah Scholarship Fund. The new scholarship fund, named in honor of one of the state’s most prominent leaders, will work to advance educational opportunities for meritorious, financially deserving university students, particularly those of African American descent. 

In establishing the scholarship community leaders note that African American students at the University of Utah represent less than one percent of the student population. They cite financial limitations as one of the greatest barriers facing black students, not only in enrolling in higher education, but also in remaining in college to earn a degree. “Our university is fortunate to have such committed community partners invested in the success of students,” says David Pershing, senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Utah. “The Pastor France Davis Scholarship Fund will provide African American students with important financial assistance, mentoring, and academic support as they complete their education.”  Pershing adds, “We are thrilled that community leaders have named their scholarship fund after Pastor Davis because he has been such a strong force for good in the community and is so integral to the fabric of the University of Utah.”

Kathleen Christy, assistant superintendent, Salt Lake City School District, and a member of the scholarship committee, echoes Pershing’s sentiments, “Pastor France A. Davis has been a religious leader, educator, community activist and bridge builder in Utah for more than three decades.  His personal educational accomplishments, in addition to his commitment to improving educational opportunities for disadvantaged students, make him the ideal person in whose honor the scholarship should be named.”

Community members are being asked to consider making a contribution to this historic effort, the first scholarship fund established at the University of Utah with the sole intent of raising funds for scholarships specifically to assist traditionally marginalized African American students. While tuition at the University of Utah is relatively modest by national standards–$5,000 a year for Utah residents–it is still beyond the reach of many local citizens of color. Organizers feel that the success of this new scholarship fund is in the strength of the community-University of Utah partnership.

Octavio Villalpando, associate vice president for diversity at the University of Utah, states, “Community leaders who came together to establish this private scholarship fund are to be commended for helping us enhance the success of African American students at the U. We also acknowledge their foresight for naming it in honor of Pastor Davis, a respected leader who has made invaluable contributions to the lives of many citizens in the state of Utah. The university greatly appreciates the contributions that the Pastor France Davis Scholarship Fund will make to further the success of African American students. 

Pastor France A. Davis leads the Calvary Baptist Church in Salt Lake City. Raised in Georgia, he has lived in Utah for thirty-three years. As a young college student he met and marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Davis went on to serve in the U.S. Air Force and earn five college degrees. He teaches at the University of Utah, and contributes his time and energy to numerous civic, business, educational, and charitable organizations to further the cause of social justice.

For more information about the Pastor France A. Davis University of Utah Scholarship Fund, or to make a contribution, please call the University of Utah Office for Diversity 801-581-7569.