Friends, faculty and family gathered for the announcement of the recipient of the Chad V. Vanderford History Endowment Scholarship in the foyer of the J. Conrad Dunagan Library on the University of Texas of the Permian Basin campus.
Charles Prescher, a UTPB senior from Fort Hancock, was selected from several applicants.
Vanderford died in August 2017 at age 43.
In December 2017, his widow, Nichole Rougeau-Vanderford, a senior lecturer in the Department of Literature and Languages, said friends, family and colleagues and current and former students came together to establish and endow the scholarship.
By the end of the spring semester of this year, the history department selected a recipient, she said.
Rougeau-Vanderford read from a letter from her and her daughter, Emilie, that will be sent to future awardees. It describes her late husband, his interest in the South, taking in all perspectives and thinking outside the box. He was an associate professor of history at UTPB from 2006-2017.
Chad Vanderford was born in Burbank, Calif., near Hollywood. He went to school with celebrities and children of celebrities.
Rougeau-Vanderford said her husband was not the best student, but he was an avid reader. Because of his high school performance, she said he didn’t qualify to immediately enter a four-year school, so he went to Glendale Community College.
He did so well, she said, he qualified to attend the University of California Berkeley. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s in history from California State University Northridge.
While at Northridge, Rougeau-Vanderford said he took a university-sponsored research trip to Natchez, Miss., and fell in love with the South and made it the focus of his studies. He and Rougeau-Vanderford met at Louisiana State University.
While completing their dissertations and earning their PhDs, his in history and hers in English, they got married. After stints at other universities, they came to UTPB and made a life. He published his first book in 2015, “The Legacy of St. George Tucker: College Professors in Virginia Confront Slavery and Rights of States, 1771–1897,” published by the University of Tennessee Press.
He planned runs with their daughter, Emilie, now 11, and Rougeau-Vanderford and her husband planned hikes. She was secretly planning a hike in the Grand Canyon at the end of August 2017. He died at the beginning of August.
She said her husband was an academic who couldn’t take summers off and got cranky if he didn’t have a research project going. He went to Michigan to start research for his second book in June 2017. He returned from Michigan with notes and a nasty bug that weakened his heart, Rougeau-Vanderford said.
“He was a runner and ate well,” she said. “Overall, he was healthy. Nothing other than the bug indicated ill health and there was nothing we could have done to prevent his death.”
“He was taken from us too soon and is dearly missed as a husband, father and son, colleague professor and academic,” she added.
History Professor Derek Catsam, a friend of Vanderford’s, said it was appropriate that Wednesday’s announcement took place in the library because it is the sort of building Vanderford loved — full of books, archives and knowledge.
Catsam said many of the donations for the scholarship came from the people gathered.
“It’s going to carry on. We as a department, we as a college, and I hope we as a university, will continue to support it,” he said.
UTPB President Sandra Woodley said people walk through life and brush shoulders with people of great impact, people who make a negative impact and have a bad influence and those who have no impact or influence.
With the scholarship, Woodley said Chad Vanderford’s impact will live on.
Prescher, who is a history major with a minor in economics, was taking his teacher certification exam but was able to attend the news conference. The 21-year-old will mainly be student teaching in the fall and taking one class.
“I’m very honored to win the Chad Vanderford scholarship. I had his class once and it was a very nice experience. You could tell he had a great love for his class,” Prescher said.
He added that Chad Vanderford represented what it was to be a historian. Even people who weren’t interested in history found it fun and interesting.
“You got more than what you expected from his class,” Prescher said. “It was a real tragedy when he passed away. It was too soon, but it’s really nice getting a scholarship and I’ll be sure to put it to good use.”
Rougeau-Vanderford said what impressed her about Prescher’s application was that some of the phrasing sounded exactly like something Chad Vanderford would have said.
“Charles’ essay did encapture Chad’s philosophy about learning,” she said.
She said education was important to her and her husband. They came to UTPB before the Student Activity Center and Science and Technology building were constructed.
“We loved the small environment. He wasn’t ever going to be the kind of person you have wanted flowers for. He just wasn’t interested in those things. He was interested in applying for fellowships to go and study. …,” she said.
They talked about their wishes if something happened to them.
They were both educators so they wanted to pass on the opportunity for someone to further their education.
Rougeau-Vanderford said she approached Assistant History Professor Michael Frawley about helping her set up a scholarship. She said Frawley spoke to the development office and the same day they had an account set up.
“So we advertised it in lieu of flowers, please contribute to the scholarship. By December, I was sitting in a meeting with a good friend of mine, Maureen Page who is a lecturer in English and I said, ‘We only need this much before it’s completely endowed’ and she said, ‘OK.’ She wrote a check out,” Rougeau-Vanderford said.
She asked Page if she was serious and Page told her it was what she and her husband wanted to do for Rougeau-Vanderford.
For now, it is being offered to an undergraduate student, but she’s hoping more will be added because she wants to eventually make it available to an undergraduate and graduate student because Vanderford was on the graduate faculty.
How to give: tinyurl.com/y8cbu39q