A longtime University of West Georgia advocate and a school system in Alabama have gone east to help students Go West.
The MacGregor Flanders Scholarship Endowment has been awarding scholarships since the 1970s, but a current UWG student is the first recipient since the addition of funds from the Cleburne County School Foundation and the renaming of the endowment.
Now called the MacGregor Flanders/Cleburne County Scholarship Endowment, this scholarship is targeted to support individuals who are Cleburne County, Alabama, residents or Cleburne County high school graduates.
Elizabeth Flanders established the scholarship in 1976 in memory of her late husband, MacGregor “Mac” Flanders. Now, nearly a half-century later, the couple’s son, MacGregor “Greg” Flanders Jr., oversees the scholarship.
“Mac” Flanders was a charter member of what was then called the West Georgia College Foundation, now the UWG Foundation. While at Amherst College in Massachusetts – where he had the famed poet Robert Frost as an English composition teacher – Flanders learned the importance of higher education.
“My father had an interest in furthering the education of the people around him, so when he passed away, rather than asking people to send flowers, my mother started a scholarship fund in his memory,” Flanders said. “This scholarship isn’t intended to be a gift, but rather an investment into the futures of the recipients in the hopes that they will one day pay it forward.”
The renamed endowment’s first beneficiary is Atalie Estes, a senior early childhood education major who lives in Ranburne. A single mother who teaches twirling lessons when she’s not student-teaching, taking classes in the College of Education or taking care of her young child, Estes said she was moved to tears when she saw the effect the scholarship had on her breakdown of fees.
“I logged on to see how much I owed the university for tuition and fees, and I saw how much the scholarship had covered,” Estes said. “I was so amazed, I just started crying. It’s incredible to me that I get to pursue my dreams because of this.”
Coming from a family of educators, Estes said she didn’t initially want to follow those paths – but here she is.
“When I started at UWG, I was undecided about my major because I wanted to take my core classes and keep my options open,” Estes said. “But the more I learned about the College of Education and the opportunities they provide their students, the more I fell in love with it. Now, I can’t wait to be a teacher and build relationships with my students by showing them that I care about them, that I’m there for them and that they can feel safe around me.”
The 2020-2021 recipient of the scholarship is Anna Buttrill. A Cleburne County resident, she is pursuing a Master of Education Degree and is a first-grade teacher at Bowdon Elementary School.
Estes said her time at UWG has allowed her to become aware of that inner desire.
“And the scholarship that I’ve received has been a huge part of that,” she said. “It has allowed me to not be drowned in so many loans so that I can save some money that can go toward my family and my future career. It’s really given me a sense of freedom as a student.”
Flanders said he looks forward to seeing the scholarship grow through the years.
“Our goal with this updated scholarship is to help the students of Cleburne County in perpetuity, long after I’m gone,” Flanders said. “We hope to offer some financial help to students who are working to better themselves, but we also like to give some encouragement and recognition that their hard work is not going unnoticed.”
UWG offers in-state undergraduate tuition to Alabama residents. To learn more, visit the UWG Admissions page for Alabama residents at www.westga.edu/undergraduate-admissions/out-of-state.php.