I didn’t know much more than the usual talking points about Senator Robert C. Byrd — and certainly didn’t know as much as about him as his con-stituents in West Vir-ginia or his colleagues on (and off) the Hill. But I do have one personal connection to the late Mr. Byrd, albeit a distant one.
When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, we had very little money. It was thanks in part to a Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship that I was able to attend college (something very few in my extended family had done). At the time of my award (1989), the program was only four years old, so I suppose you might say I got one of the first. At the time, I knew even less about Mr. Byrd, but I was very grateful and sent him a letter of personal thanks. I remember receiving a warm letter in response. I knew even then that he hadn’t evaluated the applications or decided on the recipients himself, but I wanted to thank some-one — why not the man for whom the award had been named?
I learned later that this was the only merit-based scholarship at the federal level (funded by the Department of Education). It was non-renewable at the time of my award, but the year after I earned my B.A., Congress amended the law to allow recipients meeting certain standards in their first year of college to receive the same award for three subsequent years. I am still grateful for the assistance to this day. And it all goes back to Mr. Byrd’s lifelong dedication to learning.
Thank you, Mr. Byrd, and requiescas in pace.