My mother, Ida Belle Turberville Mashburn, was a country girl from Monroe County. A country girl with taste and dignity; puritan through and through, but with an astute eye toward social justice, though she didn’t know it was called that. It was “farm wisdom” to her – and it went like this: you got along with everyone who worked the land; you helped them and they helped you – color didn’t matter. She was long integrated in her being, while living squarely in a segregated south.
She possessed the most amazing capacity for work that I’ve encountered. Up at 4:30 each morning, paper, breakfast, and devotional with Dad, and off to the garden until she literally was drenched in her own perspiration. It was a daily baptism, and she relished every moment of it. Mother met God every morning in her garden. He gave her the strength to keep those weeds out so that she reaped bountiful harvests in order to share with friends, neighbors and even occasional sojourners. She worked that garden until cancer took her at age 93.
My father, Telfair James Mashburn, the judge, was also from yeomanry stock out of Escambia County. He loved this country, the law, his family, God, people and Alabama football, not necessarily in that order. He read his Bible daily and taught the adult men’s Sunday School class for 65 years (he used to say jokingly that his students graduated to heaven). He never wore his religion outwardly and was suspicious of those who did. He trusted his soul to no person, institution, creed, or even a book, save God. His faith was simple: pray to God daily, read the Bible daily, go to church, be honest, help others and do what is right.
He always spoke his mind – in church, in court, in politics, in social situations, in the home. He was disarmingly honest. It probably cost him an election or two, but that really never mattered. Truth always took precedence over success; honesty outweighed orthodoxy. Some might say (some did say) my dad had a big mouth. But his heart was even bigger. He was comfortable with all kinds of people; he was at home in the mansion hall, the city hall, the fellowship hall and the pool hall. Humble, hospitable, a law and order person, but gregarious through and through. He loved life, didn’t mind being on the edge, at times, but would look you squarely in the eye and tell you the truth, whether you liked to hear it or not. He finally succumbed to the vicissitudes of life at age 96.
Both of my parents believed in travel and education and saw to it that their children had ample opportunities for both. It is little wonder that all three of their children ended up with graduate degrees – two became university professors and one a professional musician.
When my mother died in 2000, my father wanted to do something in honor of her. After family consultation, we decided to establish the Telfair J. and Ida Belle Mashburn Scholarship. It would be used to promote the area which was at the core of our family, the Humanities – namely, philosophy, theology, literature, music and law. In a real sense, my parents are continuing to do for others what they did for us, though granted at a smaller level...but hopefully, over the years that level will continue to increase.
What we, as donors, are doing is very, very important. Ninety-six percent of University of Mobile-enrolled students receive some form of financial assistance. Eighty percent receive institutionally funded scholarships – that is, merit, talent and/or athletic awards. And 14 percent receive funded/endowed scholarships. There are currently 190 endowed scholarships at the University of Mobile and the number continues to grow. For some students, these scholarships make the difference between coming to the University of Mobile or not. For others, it means the difference in the hours they have to spend working outside jobs in order to remain at UMobile. And for all, it means
having to borrow less money from parents and/or lending institutions.
I have had the privilege of working closely with the recipients of endowed scholarships. The investment we are making in these students is among the best investments we will ever make. Investing in people makes all the difference in the world. I am absolutely confident that the endowed scholarship students are among the best we have, and that the education our students receive at UMobile will prepare them not only to meet the challenges of the 21st century, but will enable them to address the four fundamental relationships in life: relationship to God, relationship to others, relationship to the world and relationship to one’s self.
Because of endowed scholarships, many students can rest more comfortably knowing that they have people, outside of their family, who are investing in them, believing in them and wanting them to be successful in life. Donors, you too, can rest more comfortably knowing that you are doing a good thing. Thank you for your commitment to quality Christian education and for your investment in the
most precious and important resource we have – our young people.
Dr. Ted Mashburn is associate dean of the University of Mobile College of Arts and Sciences and professor of Humanities.