Luther Vandross scholarship inches Fernander closer to his goal

Kesha Williams
July 15, 2014

You might say that Brian Fernander swapped one coastal setting for another when he departed his native Nassau, Bahamas, two years ago to continue his college education in Elizabeth City. His goal is to graduate with honors and sail to a promising future. Since arriving at Elizabeth City State University as a sophomore, Fernander has been busy studying for an accounting degree. Last spring, his hard work earned him induction into Beta Gamma Sigma, an international honor society reserved for outstanding business students. Fernander has a 3.82 grade point average. In order to fulfill his desire to perform as a singer and dancer, he also selected a minor at ECSU -- music performance. That, too, kept him busy singing with the University Choir and performing in skits and musicals. He has relied upon the university's Financial Aid Office for help covering the costs of his education. As an international student, Fernander is not eligible for U.S. federally funded financial aid. He was delighted to learn he was the recent recipient of a $1,000 scholarship from the Luther and Mary Ida Vandross Fund. Managed by the Philadelphia Foundation, the fund was established to honor the memory of Luther Vandross, an award-winning R&B singer who died in July 2005, and his devoted mother Mary Ida, who died in 2008. Scholarships from the fund assist students seeking to graduate from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In the fall of 2014, Tracie Hunter, director of ECSU's Office of Financial Aid anticipates awarding 5 additional scholarships to eligible students in the amount of $2,500 from the same fund. "The scholarship came right in time to settle fees for the spring 2014 semester. I was extremely grateful and elated to be granted this scholarship as it is difficult for international students to get financial aid," Fernander said. "As an international student, I felt like the minority," he continued. "But that has inspired and motivated me to do what was required to succeed and make the best of my undergrad experience. I also felt the need to succeed to pave the way for future international students who may be in search of an institution with a thriving international program." Fernander shares his positive ECSU experience with friends, family and former teachers in the Bahamas to assure them that this 123-year-old institution is the place where dreams come true. His projected graduation date is December 2014. He will be the first in his family to earn a B.S. degree in Accounting.