Floyd Duncan '64In 2013, as he approached his 50th Reunion, Floyd H. Duncan’64, who was a professor in the Department of Economics and Business from 1978 to his retirement in 2013 and headed the department from 2005 to 2013, decided to establish a scholarship.
The decision came during the course of a conversation with the VMI Foundation’s Vice President for Planned Giving, Terrie Conrad. Duncan knew how much he wanted to give, however, “until Terrie asked me how my reunion gift should be used, I had been thinking of the Class of ’64 Reunion Campaign as a whole. Then, she mentioned scholarships, and I suddenly saw an opportunity to repay a debt long overdue.”
By “debt,” Duncan is referring to the fact that, private support allowed him to attend VMI. In high school, college had seemed out of reach financially until a chemistry teacher encouraged him to consider VMI. During his junior year, his principal also encouraged Duncan to attend college. When Duncan expressed an interest in VMI, the principal contacted the local state senator, J. Hubert Wheeler, who recommended Duncan for a state cadetship, which paid tuition and board, and a scholarship from the C. Bascom Slemp Foundation.
Toward the end of his third class year, Duncan, who majored in Chemistry, received a scholarship offer from a fertilizer company. At almost the same time, the Slemp Foundation offered to extend their scholarship support to him. With the corporate support providing him with the money for his last two years at VMI, Duncan declined the Slemp Foundation’s offer and thanked them for their support. One thing stuck with him, however. “In its letter, the Slemp Foundation suggested that, one day, I might be able to provide the same opportunity for some other deserving young person.”
As a professor at VMI, Duncan also saw scholarships’ positive effects in his own academic department. One stood out in particular. “I had seen the good things my department had done with the scholarship established by Bob McDowell Class of ’68, which is awarded based on a combination of academic merit and financial need. One of the department’s top-ranking cadets, whose family circumstances were not unlike mine, received help from the McDowell Scholarship for most of his cadetship.” Duncan cited another example. During his last year as department head, he heard of a young man who would not be able to return to VMI after his Rat Year unless he received significant financial assistance. “Since he was a very strong student, I recommended him for the McDowell Scholarship, and he was able to continue his education.”
These experiences convinced Duncan to model his scholarship along the lines of the McDowell Scholarship. For him, however, whatever their specifics, scholarships boil down to one salient fact. “Scholarships,” he said, “provide opportunities for young people to attend VMI. Considering the VMI education’s many positive effects, there are few ways to have a more profound effect on their lives than that.”