Annual Scholarship Contributions from the Lunceford Family Create Lasting Legacy


Lunceford family image

Left to right: Wendell, Betty, Johnny, Dell and Schatz Lunceford. Taken c. 1960 in Aberdeen, MD

When Dell Lunceford watched the Goodwill collection truck drive away with furniture and odds and ends from his late parents' home, he was saddened to think that was the end of their story.

"Here were a couple of people who raised a couple of good kids," Lunceford said, referring to his brother and himself. "They managed to get us both off to college and we did well professionally. They did all the things that parents should do."

Wendell and Betty Lunceford imageAs a military family, the Lunceford's moved regularly and Dell Lunceford attended 18 schools around the world before graduating from Northeast High school in St. Petersburg. Upon graduation, the college where his parents chose to educate their sons was St. Petersburg Junior College, now St. Petersburg College. Lunceford decided to start a scholarship at SPC in his parents' honor. Not only did he want to pay tribute to them but he wanted to give back to the college that did so much for him.

"SPJC had a specialty program where they would help people who really weren't ready for college and get their skills up to speed," Lunceford said. "If it hadn't been for the program and the efforts that they made for me, there's no way I would have gotten an engineering degree."

After two years at SPJC, Lunceford earned his engineering degree at Florida Technological University, which is now the University of Central Florida. He worked for the U.S. Navy then spent many years with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Washington, D.C. The organization works with innovations within government as well as outside. Lunceford's engineering career took him to California where he was a director at a research institute and then started a software company in San Francisco with a few other people. "There's no way I would have ever done that that without the support my parents gave me," he said.

When Lunceford was considering starting a scholarship in their honor, he talked with friends who donate $1,000 a year to another school to offer help to a different student annually. But he realized when they stop giving, the scholarship ends. So, Lunceford decided to start donating $1,000 a year to SPC until the scholarship fund was large enough that its interest could fund the scholarship. Some years he gave more and also got matching grants. "It really was just making the commitment to put money in there every year and then let time work in my favor," he said, adding that donors don't have to be extremely wealthy or a corporation to make a difference. "If you make a commitment early enough that compounding interest works in your favor. It doesn't take very much to get started."

Now, thirty years later the scholarship offers funds to four students annually. It favors applicants who are single parents going back to school. "It's hard enough being a single parent, let alone one trying to go back to school, so the goal was to help that parent make a better life for their children," Lunceford said. "Ultimately the future is about the children, so my hope was by helping the parent, I was helping the future."