Citadel Alumni Association to Award Scholarship in Name of First Black Graduate
The Citadel African American Alumni Association has established a scholarship for minority students in honor of the school’s first Black graduate, Charles Foster.
Black alumni hope to award the first scholarship this fall. It will be awarded annually once enough money is raised.
“I’m embarrassed to say it, but while I was there at The Citadel, I didn’t know who the first Black graduate was,” says Hillery Douglas Jr., who created the scholarship. “I just didn’t ever think about it.”
Douglas, who graduated from The Citadel in 1982 and now works for a software engineering firm in Cleveland, says there has not been much involvement on behalf of Black alumni with the university in the past. But he says the Black alumni, who number approximately 300, have expressed interest in establishing the scholarship to honor the first Black graduate while at the same time offering financial assistance to minority Citadel students. “Nobody else is going to do it,”
Douglas told Black Issues. “We felt like it was incumbent on us to do something.”
Foster was one of six Black applicants and the only one accepted by The Citadel after colleges and universities were desegregated (see Black Issues, Jan. 9, 1997).
When Foster entered the Corps of Cadets in 1966, reporters were instructed not to single him out in order to avoid chaos on the campus. The media complied, and Foster went through four years of college without landing in the spotlight. It was a different scene 30 years later when the first woman accepted in the corps garnered international attention.
Foster graduated in 1970 and moved out of town. He was working as a moving company manager when he died in a 1986 house fire in Garland, Texas.
Foster said he never encountered problems at The Citadel. But his brother, Bill Foster of Charlotte, N.C., said in a 1996 interview with The (Charleston) Post and Courier that Foster received threatening letters and was given the silent treatment while at the military college.
The military school never considered Foster’s enrollment to be anything special. Officials said The Citadel summer school and College of Graduate and Professional Studies had been accepting Black students for two years prior to Foster’s arrival.
But to many, Foster is a trailblazer. “He was the first. He should be remembered,” says Robert Pickering, an alum and director of multicultural student services at the college. “It’s a part of Citadel history that’s not really talked about.”
The Community Foundation Serving Coastal South Carolina is handling the scholarship endowment for the alumni group. The scholarship’s value could be close to $20,000 annually.
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