How UNCF Helped Donovan Burman Complete His Journey to and Through College

How far is it from Indianola, MS, in the Mississippi River delta, to the Atlanta, GA, campus of Morehouse College, a UNCF-member institution? In distance, the two places are about 400 miles apart. But for the family of Morehouse graduate Donovan Burman II, the first college graduate in his family’s history, the journey took more than 60 years.

Burman’s grandfather grew up in Indianola during the 1950s. Farm work came before everything else, and his education in Indianola’s segregated schools ended in fifth grade, without his learning how to read and write. Burman still remembers his grandfather calling his mom to spell a word as simple as “blue.” In fact, in researching his family history, he discovered that at least three generations back, no one had a college degree or, in many cases, even a high school diploma.

For Burman, it was a challenge, a driving force to open the door of higher education to his family. His quest led him to UNCF’s 2014 Orlando Mayor’s Luncheon, where UNCF president and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax announced that Donovan had been chosen to receive a $20,000 scholarship, which he used to enter UNCF-member HBCU Morehouse College in Atlanta, Lomax’s own alma mater.

Four years later, Orlando supporters of UNCF gathered once again for that year’s Mayor’s Luncheon. Once again Dr. Michael Lomax was there to bring greetings. Most members of the audience were there because they had sponsored or bought tickets to the event. But one attendee had received a complimentary ticket from UNCF Area Director Anita Henri as a thank-you gesture for having volunteered for that year’s UNCF Walk for Education, and had asked if she could bring her son. “Of course,” replied Henri.

Her son was Donovan Burman II. Four years before he had received a scholarship that enabled him to begin his college education at Morehouse. This time, he, with his mother standing by his side, were recognized by Lomax and the audience for completing his college education and receiving his degree. Tearfully, he said that the UNCF scholarship had made his education possible and that he would be forever grateful.

Donovan Burman graduated from college. But the journey that had started in Indianola was not over. Ahead was a career built on the foundation of his college degree. And the door that UNCF opened for Burman and more than 500,000 other UNCF-member institutions graduates had opened even wider for those who would follow.