Nettie Barnett, the first name on Senior Walk, class of 1876.

Nettie Barnett, the first name on Senior Walk, class of 1876.

One Family, 40 Years, 170 Scholarships

Edwin Clifford Boles and his son Edwin Vaulx Boles

Edwin Clifford Boles and his son Edwin Vaulx Boles

by Darinda Sharp

Does the name Nettie Barnett sound familiar? If not, then the next time you find yourself in front of Old Main, take a look at the beginning of Senior Walk.

Mary Antoinette Barnett Boles, known to all as Nettie, was the first graduate of the University of Arkansas, Class of 1876, and hers is the first name on Senior Walk. In 1973, her son Edwin (also an alumnus) chose to honor the family’s long history with the U of A by establishing the Boles-Vaulx Scholarship Fund with a donation as provided in his will.

Edwin Clifford Boles’ bequest was made in memory of his mother and “the other members of the Boles and Vaulx families who, as students and as faculty and staff members of the University, have contributed to the establishment and development of the University since its inception.”

Edwin’s wife, Huetta Snowden Vaulx, was the daughter of Margaret (Garside) and Rev. James Junius Vaulx, who served as rector at Fayetteville’s St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (1876-1902).  Among the Vaulx family members with close ties to the university were several of Huetta’s 11 brothers and sisters. Her sister Julia Ramsay Vaulx served as editor of the Arkansas University Magazine, the university’s first student periodical, which began publication in April 1893. She was also instrumental in the establishing the University Library.  She was appointed librarian in 1914, a post she held full-time until 1935.

The original gift of about $5,250 has grown to almost 50-times its original size and has provided more than 170 scholarships to “talented and deserving students enrolled on the Fayetteville campus.”

“Every gift, no matter the size, makes a difference to the university,” said Mark Power, associate vice chancellor of development. “The Boles-Vaulx Scholarship Fund is a wonderful example of what a difference gifts can make over time.”

In the years since the original gift, friends and family members have added to the fund. Many gave memorials to the fund upon Edwin’s death in 1972. Other family members, including Nettie’s grandson, Edwin Vaulx Boles, her niece, Frances Barnett, and others left provisions in their wills to add to the endowment. As the balance grew, so did the number scholarships as well as the amount per scholarship provided by the Barnett, Vaulx and Boles families.

While few people are able to make major gifts, many want to support the university, its students and its programs, and several small gifts over a few years can become an endowment that will continue for generations. A gift of $25,000 is needed to generate enough annual income for an endowed scholarship.

“That’s a lot of money for most people, but it can happen in any number of ways,” Power said. “We’ve seen people donate $5,000 a year for five years. We’ve also had several people come together, families or other groups, to create a legacy gift. However the total is achieved, once it is endowed, it will continue, and the endowment can grow with additional donations. In this case, it has continued to grow for more than 40 years.”

Criteria for scholarship recipients may be as broad or as specific as the donors care to make them by giving preference to qualified applicants based on things such as field of study, extracurricular activities, grade point average or financial need.

In addition to gratitude, many students express amazement when receiving scholarship funding – gratitude for the assistance, and amazement at the generosity of someone they have never met. Fulbright College students Nicole Schuler and Millie Hogue are two of the most recent recipients of the Boles-Vaulx Scholarship.

“I am truly grateful that people exist with the generosity to provide opportunities to students who otherwise would be unable to dream,” said Schuler, an honors student majoring in anthropology with a triple minor in theatre, art and psychology. “Their selflessness makes all the difference in our lives. They made it possible for me to chase my dreams.”

“I am so thankful for this scholarship that I had difficulty putting it into words,” said Houge, an honors student majoring in English and journalism. “When I started to write my thank you letter to the family, it just seemed impossible to convey, in a page worth of words, the significance of what they have given to me and to the people I love. This scholarship changed my life.”

“People give for many reasons,” Power said. “Some give out of loyalty to the institution, others out of passion for a specific program or interest. The important thing to remember is that every gift matters.”

Hogue eventually found her words, and included this in her letter to the Boles family:

“By giving me this scholarship, you’ve affirmed something I have long believed about the world: that a single human being has the potential to do great good, that we are all more alike than we are different, and that in the face of a stranger, a good friend may be waiting. I will always believe that you and I are good friends, for no other type of person could have given so generously and so fully as you have given to me.”


Darinda Sharp

About the author

Darinda Sharp serves as director of communications for the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.