TALLAHASSEE — The Florida A&M University (FAMU) Division of University Advancement has unveiled six endowed scholarships plaques, each donation totaling more than $100,000. The endowments will provide resources for scholarships in the College of Education, the School of Business and Industry and a pre-medicine scholarship fund.
The endowed scholarships are: Deitra Michelle Benton Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund, School of Business and Industry Deitra Benton, a Jacksonville native, assisted her mother in operating a McDonald’s franchise until she graduated from high school to attend FAMU, from which she graduated cum laude in 1998 with an MBA.
Benton joined Best Foods/Unilever and worked as an assistant product manager for Skippy Peanut Butter and associate product manager for Knorr Specialty Foods. She went on to join Alcoa-Reynolds as an associate brand manager where she was responsible for several national brands including Reynolds Plastic Wrap and Reynolds Oven Bag.
Benton later relocated to Richmond, Va. to join the family business and become the president of PJJD Enterprises. She also founded Mitra Enterprises, which had partnerships with Smarte Carte and HMS at Tampa International Airport. Benton has served as a partner in several ventures: Burger King, Outback Steakhouse,
Sunglass Designs, Manchu Wok and the National Advisory Board of Cinnabon Corporation. Robert “Pete” Griffin and Hansel E. Tookes Sr. Scholarship Endowment, College of Education Hansel E. Tookes Sr. and Robert Pete Griffin both made tremendous contributions to the legacy of FAMU Athletics, as students and as professionals. Both joined Florida A&M College (FAMC) as student athletes and later helped groom other student-athletes to succeed.
Tookes came to FAMC from Jacksonville where he was a star student athlete at Stanton High School. On a football scholarship, Tookes helped the Rattlers win the Black College National Championship in 1940 and 1942.
Griffin joined the Rattler football team after starring at East High School in Columbus, Ohio. He was a member of the famed 1938 National Championship Football Team that led an undefeated season while preventing all opposing teams from scoring.
Both Tookes and Griffin served on the FAMU football coaching staff under Hall of Fame Coach A.S. “Jake” Gaither and went on to serve in several other capacities at the university. Tookes served as the director of athletics, as a professor in the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and also oversaw the FAMU Intramural Department. In 1976, Tookes founded the FAMU Sports Hall of Fame and is notable for his involvement in the creation of the Florida Classic football game between FAMU and Bethune-Cookman University.
Griffin coached baseball, as well as track and field. He also coached basketball at FAMU High School. The Orr Family Endowed Scholarship, College of EducationWest Palm Beach natives Juanita and Virginia Orr grew up with parents whose regard for education fueled their success as students.
In 1951, Virginia made history by becoming one of the first African-American students inducted into the National Honor Society at Roosevelt High School. Graduating from Industrial High School, Juanita was awarded two scholarships, covering all expenses at Florida A&M College.
Echoing the values of their parents, Virginia and Juanita dedicated their careers to education and received bachelor’s degrees in Elementary Education. Both went on to earn master’s degrees and together impacted lives.
Rodney H. and Madeline D. Portier Endowed Scholarship, Pre-Medicine Scholarship Fund The legacy of the late Dr. Rodney H. and Madeleine D. Portier, who cherished FAMU and committed themselves to financially supporting its mission, continues through the endowed scholarship they established before their death.
Dr. Portier, an anesthetist, was among the first African Americans to open a medical practice in Miami. It was reported that his practice had the most extensive X-ray equipment available at a private practice during that time. Along with his partner, Dr. Portier also allowed the first black patrolmen in Miami to station their temporary headquarters in their office until a permanent structure was constructed about a year later.
Mrs. Portier was known as a socialite in Miami during the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. She was a charter member of the Gama Zeta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., founded in 1940. Popularly known as “Madge,” Mrs. Portier was also an arithmetic supervisor in the Dade County School System during the 1950s and 1960s.
The Portiers wanted their gift to the university to be used to endow a Pre-Medicine Scholarship Fund to provide financial support to those with a genuine sense of commitment and drive and who would represent their alma mater well. In a letter to the university, Mrs. Portier outlined her and her husband’s desire for their gift to be used in perpetuity.
Michael L. and Audrey J. Reid Endowed Scholarship, School of Business and Industry Though they did not meet on campus, both Michael and Audrey Reid found their beginnings at FAMU. Michael left New York City to attend FAMU and earned a degree in Accounting in 1984.
A native of Lake County, Audrey graduated from the School of Business and Industry with a degree in Finance. Upon graduation, Michael returned to New York City to work in the accounting field while Audrey transitioned to Tampa. Michael later moved to Tampa, to pursue a professional opportunity and it was there that he met and married Audrey.
Having experienced a very successful accounting career, Michael decided to embark upon an entrepreneurial venture. In 1990, he founded MLR Entertainment Inc., an event planning and travel firm.
With the support of his wife, his firm grew to become one of the premier firms in the southeast. Michael started Venom Nation Weekly, an online newsgroup devoted to covering FAMU news and current events, while Audrey served as treasurer of the FAMU National Alumni Association. Audrey was also an active member of the 100 Black Women of Tampa.
Dr. Thelma Jones Vriend Endowed Scholarship Fund, College of Education A native of Panama City, Thelma Jones Vriend’s commitment to education began at a young age. As a child, teachers recognized her potential and cultivated it.
Accepted into FAMU at the tender age of 15, Vriend had clear sights on her goal to impact the lives of many through education. After her sophomore year, she moved to Detroit to join her sister and enrolled in Lewis Business College while being employed as an office worker for the City of Detroit.
With her savings, Vriend left that position to enroll in Wayne State University (WSU), and graduated with a degree in Family Life Education. She then began teaching family living at Eastern High School.
Finding that she dedicated as much time to counseling as she did to teaching, Vriend returned to WSU to earn a master’s degree in counseling before joining the staff at Kettering High School.
She later received her doctorate in Guidance and Counseling from New York University and served as the dean of Student Services and later became vice president of Wayne County Community College.
As a teacher, counselor, administrator, role model and friend, Vriend impacted the lives of many.