HFA Scholarship Program History

A History of the HFA Scholarship Program 

by Nancy A. Higdon 

Every year at scholarship time, things get tense around our house. Charles P. Higdon [Nancy’s husband; both Charles P. & Nancy are long-time HFA veterans] gets frustrated about items that are forgotten regarding the scholarships. Since being isolated to avoid the coronavirus is giving us a lot of time, I pored over the old newsletters and business minutes starting as far back as 1989 when Mina Higdon Floyd was looking for donations to Truett McConnell College to open a branch in Fannin County, Georgia. Bonnie Reaves loved the idea because she had earned her teaching certificate in one of the few mountain schools available there in 1916. By 1991 Charles Evans Higdon was sharing at the HFA business meetings that there was a Higdon Education Trust Fund established to honor Bonnie Higdon Reaves. 

In 1993 Charles Parrish Higdon introduced the idea to the HFA Board that we should create a scholarship fund for Higdon descendants that could be used at the student’s choice of school anywhere in the nation. Charles P. and Carol Tyrrell volunteered to draft guidelines and prepare an application along with Dain Higdon and James D. Higdon. In the ensuing years, there were heated battles with then Treasurer Frank B. Higdon, who didn’t want the extra work; with Charles E. Higdon, who wanted the donations for the college in Fannin County; and with Helen Higdon Allison, who preferred that we support Western Carolina University. Finally in 1996, these three founding members came around to agreeing to what is now the HFA Scholarship Program by voting to move money into a foundation. In 1998, Charles E. Higdon and Frank B. Higdon reported that the HFA did not need to have a foundation for the scholarship program, as long as each student received $1,000 or less per year at that time. Guidelines were pounded out saying that no scholarships would be awarded until the fund had at least $10,000. 

By 1999, there was $120 in the scholarship fund. Many years of auctions, sales of books, and begging for donations occurred. And during those years, the general fund kept growing. In 2001, the membership agreed that after expense obligations are met for the year that any money in the general fund exceeding $5,000 (five thousand dollars) could be transferred (earmarked) for the scholarship fund. This motion gave the scholarship fund the boost it needed. In 2002, there was $9,104.15 in the general fund and $8,195.15 in the scholarship fund. Donations at the 2002 meeting sent the scholarship fund over the $10,000 mark (thanks to incoming President Ernie Higdon who suggested that we ‘pass the hat’ at the banquet). The Scholarship Committee was reactivated (William R. Higdon, Carol Tyrrell, and Gale Tyrrell). Nancy Higdon published the guidelines and application on the web site and wrote news articles encouraging students to apply. The first application deadline was March 31, 2004. Katherine Higdon would be the first person to be awarded a scholarship for $500 to attend Howard Junior College in San Angelo, Texas. 

There followed a couple of years when no students applied at all, even though the fund was up to almost $16,000. So at the August 26, 2006 meeting, the membership raised the award from $500 to $1,000. And the estate of Mildred Higdon Whitford left a very substantial donation in memory of her husband Reece Higdon that pushed the scholarship fund to over $100,000. In 2007, the HFA awarded four scholarships of $1,000 each. I can’t confirm when the Tyrrells left the committee, but the members serving on the Scholarship Committee changed to be William R. Higdon, Sally Swain, and Charles P. Higdon at least since 2010. There was a financial downturn due to the mortgage fiasco which cut interest earnings to the bone. But according to the minutes of the October 9, 2011, meeting, the members approved the committee to give at least two scholarships of $1,000 each. 

By September 2014, the HFA began to come to terms with the low interest earnings. The membership voted to award 2 to 5 scholarships with the final number being at the discretion of the Scholarship Committee. At the same meeting, it was reiterated that the sales of books, auction items and donations are to be available for scholarships. In 2015, only three students applied. The members voted to increase the amount of each scholarship from $1,000 to $2,000 each. This bump did the trick; the next year there were eight applicants and three scholarships were awarded. Sadly in 2017, there were seven applicants, but only two had sponsors in good standing with the HFA (meaning their dues were up to date). The concept of becoming a foundation kept rearing its head throughout these years, too. I think that Treasurer Charles A. Higdon “Chuck” finally put the 501(c)(3) beast to rest at the November 2018 meeting. If we go this route, the application process must be open to the public, which would undermine the intended purpose of helping only Higdon descendants. The Higdon Family Association was incorporated on October 15, 1976, in Raleigh, North Carolina. The HFA is a 501(c)(7) tax-exempt organization as defined by the Internal Revenue Service. Since its inception, the HFA Scholarship Program has provided $59,500 to the descendants of the Higdon family! 

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