Lucases endow scholarship at Africa University

10/3/2007

By Linda Green
United Methodist News Service

NASHVILLE — Aubrey Lucas has been actively involved in supporting Africa University since its founding.

Earlier this year, Lucas and his wife Ella Lucas made a matching gift of $100,000 to the Mississippi Conference to help endow a scholarship in the university’s faculty of theology. The scholarship will be named in the Lucases’ honor.

“It was my pleasure to serve for approximately nine years on the Africa University Board of Directors, which gave me the opportunity to see first hand the very significant work that university is accomplishing,” Lucas said. “The graduates of Africa University are in demand in agriculture, health sciences, commerce, education as well as theology. Almost 30 African countries are represented in the student body.

“Ella and I decided to assist in a small way this fledgling instituion which is already making a difference in the lives of so many people.”

Lucas of Hattiesburg, president emeritus of the University of Southern Mississippi, serves on the Africa University Advisory Development Committee. He is also Mississippi Conference lay leader.

Lucas said they wanted to focus on a theology endowment. “The Methodist Church in Africa is experiencing rapid growth,” he said, “so there is a critical need for clergy and other church personnel. The scholarship in theology will assit in meeting the needs of this growing church.”

The support of the Mississippi and Louisiana conferences comes at a time when both are striving to overcome the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

“The church sees in Africa University a physical representation of hope,” said the Rev. Lloyd Rollins, director of development for the Africa University Development Office.

That is particularly true for church members in Louisiana and Mississippi, he added. “With all they have been through with the turmoil of Katrina, the No. 1 thing that I have seen as a native Mississippian is that hope reigns supreme,” Rollins said. “It is hope that says that not only can we continue to overcome what we have experienced but we can continue to do what we have committed to do in Africa.”

The Louisiana and Mississippi annual conferences are among the U.S. conferences enacting campaigns to endow chairs and sponsor scholarships, build buildings and engage in hands-on ministry at Africa University. The Africa University Advisory Development Committee learned about the campaigns during its Sept. 22 meeting.

In 2005, Louisiana pledged to build a dormitory at the university, and today the conference’s African-American churches are leading the three-year effort. A conference group will travel to the university in November to learn more about the university’s needs.

In August, more than 425 freshmen and 225 graduate students began classes at Africa University, the second largest intake in the school’s 15 years. Total enrollment is 1,300 students, representing 26 African countries.

The Desert Southwest Annual Conference plans to endow a chair in the Faculty of Health Sciences and will launch a capital funds campaign. The Memphis Conference is working to establish a “Dream Farm” initiative to provide a self-sustaining model to serve as lab and training facility.

A staff/faculty house is the focus of a campaign led by Ed and Cathy Fry of Laguna Beach (Calif.) United Methodist Church, while the youth from First UMC, Birmingham, Mich., donated a million pennies to assist Africa University in responding to HIV/AIDS.

Since 2006, an effort has been under way in the Virginia Annual Conference to provide a district by district scholarship fund at Africa University. In Missouri, a three-year campaign will endow a chair in the Faculty of Education, to be named in honor of C. Jarrett Sr. and Mai Gray, recognizing their years of service to the church and the community.  The effort will be publicly launched Nov. 19 with a gala at Saint Paul Theological Seminary in Kansas City.

Western North Carolina has provided $625,000 to endow scholarships for two students from the Central Congo Area, the first installment of a $2 million scholarship and building campaign. The Peninsula-Delaware and North Texas annual conferences are also planning other campaigns.

The United Methodist annual conferences see Africa University as a “true representation” of hope, which is enabling people to live in peace, with dignity and the basic necessities, and with good governance, Rollins said. “Hope is the education that will lead anybody to any dream that they happen to have.”

Although news reports from Zimbabwe are often grim, Rollins said that “United Methodist churches and annual conferences are made up of people who look at reality and who also realize that today’s reality is not tomorrow’s reality.”

Bishop Ernest Lyght, president of the advisory committee and the development committee of the Africa University Board of Directors, said the hope that Africa University provides is education.

A key component of alleviating poverty is education, he said. As annual conferences and individuals become educated about Africa University, they get excited about the institution and about the difference that their dollars can make in enabling people to have a different attitude and view of the world, he said.

In addition to the annual conferences, at least 40,000 United Methodist congregations have supported Africa University

Committee members also:

  • Learned that the Africa University endowment had reached $45 million.
  • Learned that the St. Jude Clinical HIV/AIDS Trials will begin in Mutare, Zimbabwe, in January.
  • Participated in “saturation” events on Sept. 23 and visited 12 United Methodist churches in Nashville to talk about Africa University.
  • Created an honorary alumni association to enable high school and college students to give $50 donations in support of the university. 
  • Heard that the 12 African bishops committed to sending four students annually from each of their episcopal areas to the university.