AUBURN – The Auburn Football Lettermen Club Scholarship Endowment for scholarships now stands at $980, 000, thanks to a recent gift of $263,000 to the club from the estate of Florence Hawkins Brooks of Columbus, Ga. A check was presented to Auburn University President Jay Gogue by AFLC leaders Tom Bryan, Rusty Deen and Sam Oates. The endowment combines funds from four of the club’s existing scholarship funds, named for Ralph “Shug” and Evelyn Jordan, Pat Dye, Robert A. Sammons and Eddie Welch, and will provide scholarships for the children of club members.
“We began working to build our endowments in the mid 1980s,” said Rusty Deen, executive secretary of the AFLC, “and were building it with nickels and dimes as fast as we could. Mrs. Brooks’ generous gift has put us well beyond where we thought we’d be at this time and will help our club assist generations of deserving young men and women in achieving an Auburn education.”
“Members of the Lettermen Club made an impact on Auburn University as student-athletes, and now they are making an impact by creating academic scholarships,” stated Auburn University President Jay Gogue. “The Auburn family is grateful for what they have done through the years and what they continue to do today.”
Beginning in AU’s Shug Jordan era, coaches recruiting in the area would eat at the Black Angus in Columbus, Ga., a restaurant owned by Brooks and her husband, Leo. Through the years, Brooks became acquainted with AU coaches and learned about the university and its football program.
“I think they were impressed with what we were trying to build,” he said. “Individual scholarships awarded from the fund would continue to carry the names of the Jordans, Sammons, Dye and Welch, in addition to Brooks.”
During his tenure as AU’s head coach from 1951 through 1975, Ralph Jordan won 176 games, more than any other Auburn head football coach. Jordan was SEC Coach of the Year three times and was named national Coach of the Year after leading Auburn to a national championship in 1957. He served on the AU Board of Trustees from his retirement from coaching in 1975 until his death in 1980. He was posthumously inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1982. Jordan’s widow, Evelyn, still lives in Auburn.
Pat Dye, who was instrumental in founding the AFLC scholarship fund, began his Auburn coaching career in 1981 after stints at East Carolina and Wyoming. In 1983, he led the Tigers to an 11-1 season and an undisputed SEC championship. That year’s team was crowned national champions by The New York Times, Rothman and the College Football Researchers Association. In his 11 years as AU’s head coach, Dye won a total of 99 games, four SEC championships, was named SEC Coach of the Year three times and is a member of the National Football Hall of Fame. A University of Georgia graduate, Dye continues to donate time, money and facilities to benefit Auburn, his adopted alma mater, and the AFLC.
Robert A. Sammons attended undergraduate school at Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee Medical School, and then developed a love for Auburn as his three children earned Auburn degrees. Sammons, a respected physician in Huntsville for many years, was an avid sports fan and volunteered as a physician for Huntsville-area high school teams. In his later years, friends honored him by endowing an AFLC scholarship in his name.
Eddie Welch played defensive end at Auburn under Jordan from 1970to 1972. He was among the leaders of the 1972 squad, known as “The Amazin’s,” that capped a 9-1 season with a 24-3 route of Colorado in the Gator Bowl. When Welch died in an automobile accident in 1987, his parents, James and Frances Welch of Columbus, established the Auburn Football Lettermen Club’s first endowment for scholarships in his memory.
According to Deen, the AFLC Endowment for Scholarships funded 29 scholarships in the fall of 2007.
The “It Begins at Auburn” Campaign encompasses all colleges and schools as well as the AU libraries and museums, athletics and Auburn University Montgomery. Endowments for student scholarships, faculty, programs and unrestricted dollars make up 58 percent of the campaign’s goal. In addition to endowments, the campaign will focus on facilities and equipment, campus beautification, research and current operations.
(Contributed by Kristen Jackson.)
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