Jackson, Mississippi – Elizabeth Taylor, a graduate of Grayson College in Texas, was selected as the recipient of the 2016 David R. Pierce Scholarship of $1,000 for completion of an associate degree. She hopes to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree in social work and a Ph.D. in nursing, specializing in oncology and patient advocacy. Taylor also earned a $5,000 scholarship as a member of the All-USA Community College Academic Team and a $2,000 scholarship as the New Century Scholar from Texas.
Following Dr. David Pierce’s death in 2014, the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation announced that the Society would honor the memory of the former AACC President and Phi Theta Kappa Board Vice Chair with the establishment of a scholarship in his name. The $1,000 scholarship is presented annually to the student chosen to represent the All-USA Community College Academic Team by speaking during the Presidents Breakfast at the annual convention of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
Taylor overcame incredible odds to achieve academic success, earning a 4.0 grade point average at Grayson College and being elected as Phi Theta Kappa’s 2015-16 Division II International Vice President.
By the age of nine, she had lost her father and both grandmothers to cancer. Her mother, who struggled with drug addiction, was in and out of prison before being diagnosed with leukemia. As a result the family also struggled financially.
“I vividly remember car rides to local food pantries and experiencing an overwhelming sense of hunger,” Taylor said. “As we entered the building, I saw shelves lined with food, and feelings of hope washed over me because I knew we would eat soon.”
As Vice President of her Phi Theta Kappa chapter, Taylor spearheaded an effort to start a campus food pantry, challenging other campus organizations and public schools to collect more than 7,000 nonperishable food items.
Taylor also participated in her chapter’s Relay For Life event, raising more than $2,000 for the American Cancer Society.
“I will never forget the sight of all the survivors intently walking toward me. I felt as if they were claiming their lives back with every step,” she said. “It gave me hope that my mother would one day be cancer free.”
A rape survivor who dropped out of high school at the age of 14, Taylor said her chapter’s campaign team and fellow international officers supported, lifted her up and convinced her to share her story for the benefit of others. She joined the “No More” Campaign, an organization that raises awareness of domestic and sexual violence, and appeared in one of their public service announcements, sharing her message of hope.
“Knowing that someone believed in me and invested in my future pushed me to overcome obstacles along the way,” Taylor said. “I now feel confident in my leadership skills, and I am able to use my leadership positions to empower others.”
“It is fitting that the David R. Pierce Scholarship be presented to the scholar selected each year from the All-USA Community College Academic Team to represent and speak on behalf of the scholars at AACC’s Annual Convention,” said Dr. Nancy Rieves, CEO of the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation. “As a former president of AACC, it seems appropriate to remember Dr. Pierce among his peers and the scholars of the nation’s community colleges.”
Pierce served as president of AACC from 1991-2000 and as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Board of Directors for 11 years, serving as Vice-Chair from 2001-2003. He provided extraordinary leadership to both organizations and was respected by his peers.
In 1991, Phi Theta Kappa introduced the inaugural All-USA Community College Team at AACC during the Society’s Presidents Breakfast. Pierce, then president of AACC, requested that Phi Theta Kappa continue to recognize the All-USA Team each year at AACC.
The All-USA program is widely recognized as the most prestigious academic honor for students attending community college. Nominees are hand-selected by colleges for showing intellectual rigor and for demonstrating academic, leadership and civic growth. The program also recognizes students who extend their community college education to better themselves, their schools and their surrounding communities.
The 2016 All-USA Community College Academic Team is sponsored by Follett Higher Education Group and presented by USA TODAY, with additional support provided by the American Association of Community Colleges and Phi Theta Kappa. Each team member received a $5,000 scholarship, furnished by Follett Higher Education Group, and was featured USA TODAY newspaper’s online edition.
Phi Theta Kappa is the oldest, largest and most prestigious honor society recognizing students pursuing two-year degrees. Phi Theta Kappa is made up of more than 3 million members and nearly 1,300 chapters in nine nations.