Honoring a Lasting Legacy

In 1911, Dr. John Preston McConnell, a Scott County native, was appointed the first president of the State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Radford, now known as Radford University. He was a tireless advocate for the education of women, and his tenure at Radford was marked by efforts to ensure equal access to information, courses and materials for female students. The university’s library is named in honor of Dr. McConnell.

More than 100 years later, McConnell’s legacy lives on as members of the McConnell and Related Families Clan (MFRC) have created a scholarship in his name to further his mission. The John Preston McConnell Memorial Scholarship Endowment was established through the generosity of more than 100 direct descendants of Dr. McConnell.

Bobby McConnell, the McConnell Clan Grandmaster, says the scholarship is a fitting way to honor the McConnell heritage as well as the university to which many family members have ties.

“When you get to talking among the cousins, you find out there are more and more cousins who have ties to Radford,” Bobby McConnell said.

Family member Barnett McConnell Jr.’s mother also attended Radford. “When my mother, Georgia Hartsock, arrived on the Radford campus in the late 1930s, she, like many other Scott County students, had little or no money. Dr. McConnell gave her temporary lodging in his own home and helped her find a job on campus that allowed her to pay her college expenses and receive her teaching certificate in 1939. So this endowment is important to me because I know it will help deserving students, like my mother, obtain an excellent education,” says Barnett McConnell Jr.

In February, members of the McConnell clan gathered to celebrate McConnell Day at RU’s McConnell Library, where they presented $40,000 toward the endowment. As part of the ceremony, Colton McConnell, the great-great-grandson of President McConnell, helped re-create the dedication of the library as he poured water down its front steps like his ancestor once orchestrated.

Criteria for The John Preston McConnell Memorial Scholarship Endowment are as follows: The recipient must be a Scott County resident or a descendant of immigrant George McConnell; must be at least a rising sophomore or above at RU; must have a minimum of a 3.0 GPA; must demonstrate leadership ability and evidence of community service; and preference is given to a student majoring in education.

“When I give to this endowment, I know I’m not only honoring the memory of Dr. John Preston McConnell, but also the memory of my mother and all the young women from Scott County for whom he so generously helped obtain a college degree,” says Barnett McConnell Jr.

Image cutline: Colton McConnell, great-great-grandson of John Preston McConnell, helps re-create the dedication of the library by pouring water down its front steps.