Dowdy-Burkett Scholarship

by Billy Chandler

The Dowdy-Burkett Scholarship

Bill Burkett, Emory & Henry Class of 1967
Reba Dowdy Burkett, Emory & Henry Class of 1968

Emory & Henry brings together all sorts of unlikely yet meaningful collaborations. One of those successful pairings happened when a young man from Saltville and a young woman from Alexandria went on an arranged date while students at Emory & Henry, and then forged a lifetime together.

Bill Burkett and Reba Dowdy were married in 1968. They were both trained as teachers at Emory & Henry, and started out together teaching in Floyd, Virginia, but soon migrated back to Northern Virginia where Reba had grown up. Bill taught social studies and coached – track and basketball in the early years, but he spent most of his career coaching football. Reba taught Physical Education at both the elementary and high school level, but when their son and daughter came long Reba opted to stay home with the kids.

Never one to be idle, Bill then started a fencing company. Since Reba was at home, she managed the work of organizing the business while Bill did the labor of installing fences. Reba says, “Bill worked long hard hours, but that’s what put our kids through college.”

College education is an important topic in the Burkett home. Neither Bill’s parents nor Reba’s were able to finish high school but they were determined that their children would not only finish high school but also college. Reba was one of six children, Bill was one of eight – and all but one sibling on each side chose to get a college degree. Most every one of them became a teacher, and between the two families – siblings, children and grandchildren – fully 13 from the Dowdy-Burkett clan have attended Emory & Henry.

When Reba and Bill were in a position to pay it forward, they established an endowed scholarship at Emory & Henry to honor the lives of the four people who made college education a family tradition for the Dowdy-Burkett lineage. Horace and Elsie Dowdy and Charlie and Mildred Burkett encouraged their kids to achieve their education goals, and now they are remembered in perpetuity through this named endowment that bears their names.

Mr. and Mrs. Dowdy and Mr. and Mrs. Burkett made it their life’s goal to see that their kids had access to college; and now, all these years later, thanks to the generosity of Bill and Reba and other friends and family who have donated to the fund, they continue to be a positive influence for young people seeking an education.

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