LaGrone Scholarship

Mission Statement

The mission of The Oliver LaGrone Scholarship Committee is to generate, broaden, and nurture post-secondary aspirations of Harrisburg School District students by: providing personal support and advocacy; providing financial assistance for post-secondary education; involving Unitarian Church of Harrisburg members in action toward this purpose; and maintaining the legacy of Oliver LaGrone as the inspiration for the Scholarship.

The LaGrone Scholars
The Oliver LaGrone Scholarship program offers the largest local scholarship available to graduates of Harrisburg High School. Scholars receive $8,000 ($2,000 annually).
Year Scholar School Area of Study Mentor
2019 Ayobami Kehinde Akingbesote TBD Nursing Ann Stillwater, School Nurse
2018 Sabina Dahal Penn State - Harrisburg Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Meg Connors, Science Educator and School Administrator

2017 Roman Colon Penn State - Harrisburg Civil Engineering Mark Malarich, Engineer
2016 Taryana Peterson Temple University Psychology Dr. Mary Lynn Fecile, Physician
2015 Mark Santana Crespo Penn State - Harrisburg Criminal Justice John Hargreaves, Correctional Consultant
2014 Merced Ramirez Saldana Messiah College International Business Jeff Sigel, Marketing VP
2013 Daouda Kassimou Penn State - Harrisburg Mechanical Engineering David Spear, Trained Engineer
2012 Stanley Lumpkin Shippensburg University Management and Marketing Dr. Rick Hawley, Optometrist
2011 Durrell L. Burns Millersville University Secondary Education Nick Wilson, Asst. Principal
2010 Dana Washington Penn State University Biochemistry Maureen Callahan, Neurological Nurse
2009 Charlé Lamb West Chester University Pharmaceutical Product Development Dr. Susan Rimby, Education Advocate
2008 Dionna Jenkins Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania Business Administration Anita Mentzer, Public Education Advocate
2007 LaConteau Williams Duquesne University Business Administration Ann Sitrin, English as a Second Language Instructor
2006 Sequoyah Sherrill

Hampton University, Hampton, VA

Psychology Dr. Christopher Zeigler, Clinical Psychologist
2005 Shacoya Pope University of Pittsburgh Pre-Medicine Dr. Megan Borror, Family Medicine Physician
2004 Cedric Gatsinzi DeVry University Computer Engineering Ken Tarbell, Information Technology Professional
2003 K'asha-Amour Franklin Florida A&M University Biology Wendy Shaver, Teacher
2002 Natia Williams University of Pittsburgh Physical Therapy Karen Sweer, Medical Assistant, and Dr. Leon Sweer, Physician
2001 Latoya Stewart Long Harrisburg Community College Paralegal and Cosmetology, 2004 graduate Dianne Dusman, Lawyer
2001 Steven Walters The Dickinson School of Law English and pre-law,
2005 graduate
Don Brown, International Environmental Lawyer/Advocate
2000 Cachet Adams Rutgers University Computer Studies, 2004 graduate Cynthia Tyger, Another
First-in-the-Family College Attendee
1999 Jovani Lewis Indiana University of Pennsylvania Drama, 2003 graduate Mary Lou Harris, Drama Supporter
1998 Vivian Nguyen (named Binh Ngo at time of award) The Pennsylvania State University Business Administration / Business Information Systems,
2002 graduate
Cordell Affeldt,
Refugee Advocate
1998 Tony Dickey Millersville University Music Education Dr. Blaise Liffick, Folk Musician & Computer Professor at Millersville University
1997 Sieta Bonner Shippensburg University Secondary Education Teacher,
2001 graduate
Dr. Robin Miller, Psychologist
1996 Student withdrew from school  
1995 Tracey Bryant Temple University Psychology,
1999 graduate
Dr. Elizabeth Hoffman, Psychologist
1994 Dominque Urrutia Hampton University, VA Elementary education,
1998 graduate
Dawn Duffins, Elementary Teacher
1993 Kymberli Wright Coppin State University, Baltimore, MD Business Administration,
1997 graduate
Dianne Dusman, Lawyer

Leland Nelson

Delaware State University Accounting,
1996 graduate
Joan Hellmann, Certified Public Accountant
OLS’s Unique Features
  • Each contribution to the Fund is directed entirely to Scholars.
  • The Scholarship is not just for college, but also for any form of accredited post-secondary education.
  • The Scholarship may be used to support anything essential to the Scholar’s studies, not just tuition or books.
  • The Fund and its activities are initiated and managed by the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg.
  • Scholars are supported over four years by a personal relationship with a church member mentor, often from the Scholar’s field of interest.
  • Scholar applicants are solicited from the Harrisburg School District.
  • Scholar selection is by a panel that includes community as well as church members.
Making A Contribution
You may make a contribution at any time to honor an individual, an event, or simply to support the Scholarship Fund directly. Checks should be made payable to the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg; write OLSF on the memo line. Contributions by mail can include OLSF in the church address.
Inspiration for Scholarship: Oliver LaGrone

Oliver LaGrone was a noted poet, sculptor, educator, and humanitarian. He was personally a man of towering intellect and prodigious creativity. It is no wonder that this elegant man with a knowing spirit inspired the creation of a scholarship.

The adults in Oliver’s world shaped him mightily. He was born in the Oklahoma Territory, his father having left Alabama after an incident involving two white men who were beating his paternal grandmother. His father had a Normal school education, knew black history and heroes, was financially successful, and was influential in his black community. Mother LaGrone knew that hers was a child of the rough, untamed frontier but nurtured his sense of social justice and his desire to express it personally and artistically. Already at age four he fashioned of Oklahoma red clay, a bust of famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass. His older brother Hobart attended Fisk University and knew W.E.B. Dubois, the noted historian and activist.

Although his early efforts to earn a college degree at Howard University were interrupted when his father died, while there LaGrone became personally acquainted with Ralph Bunche, later a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and with Dr. Carter G. Woodson, father of American black history.

Then, while working for the chief engineer on the Boulder Dam, the engineer’s wife took LaGrone to the president of the University of New Mexico, ensuring LaGrone’s enrollment. One of Oliver’s art professors was a friend of the journalist Ernie Pyle, resulting in raves for LaGrone’s talent in one of Pyle’s columns. Oliver LaGrone persevered and graduated from the University of New Mexico with degrees in sociology and fine arts.

Early Activism

Oliver LaGrone worked for Ford in the World War II effort. He was identified as a person of unusual sensibilities and ended up traveling the U.S. on behalf of the president of the United Auto Workers.


LaGrone was the first African American to attend Cranbrook Art Academy in Detroit where he studied sculpture as Carl Milles’ protégé. He was part of Detroit’s “swinging young set.” His friendship with Paul Robeson later brought LaGrone job loss and threat of personal physical danger.

LaGrone traveled in Africa, including studying the bronzes of Benin. Upon his return, he met Alex Haley, long before Haley’s notoriety for authoring Roots.


LaGrone continued to write poetry and create sculptures throughout his life. For many years, he was a teacher in the Detroit Schools. In 1970, he was invited to lecture in art and African-American history at The Pennsylvania State University. In 1975, he became Artist-in-Residence, working at all 21 branches of Penn State; and then held a similar position with the Hershey Foundation and Boas Center for Learning in the Harrisburg School District.
LaGrone’s poems, articles and reviews appeared in such publications as The Saturday Review, Negro Digest, and the New York Times Sunday Book Review. His poetry has been included in several anthologies. For many years, he presented the LaGrone Art Culture package, consisting of 18-20 sculptures, poetry and lectures in African-American history in schools, universities and service organizations in more than 24 states. Comedian Dick Gregory arranged the first contact with the speaker’s management bureau he used.
His sculptures can be seen locally at the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg and at Penn State Harrisburg in the LaGrone Cultural Arts Center and the Rowland Sculpture Garden.
LaGrone Scholarship
While associated with the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, Oliver LaGrone inspired members of the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg to establish a scholarship in his name. Oliver donated the proceeds from the sale of his sculpture, “The Dancer.” Funds to build the scholarship came from many fundraisers and the donations of many individuals and organizations over the years. In more recent times, the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg Endowment Fund, which is supported by the L. James Eckels Trust, has made substantial contributions toward the scholarship.
LaGrone the Universal Man
Oliver LaGrone died at age 89 in October 1995. Throughout his near-epic life he focused on universals. A black race/white race divide was impossible for him. So too, he found no disjuncture between poetry and sculpture, between young and old, or between the new and the familiar. He was drawn to the unity and interdependence of all things. The Oliver LaGrone Scholarship is fitting testament.
LaGrone Poetry
Lines to the LaGrone Scholar

(Original verse by Oliver LaGrone, 1992)

The human race has broken
Those limits that once found
Their efforts to serve a token
Hemmed in by sight, by touch and sound...

The moon, once a distant spectre
Provoked its mystique and our awe;
For youth, a wan mirror; or a reflector,
That roamed the night-sky's gaping maw..

But at last some curious searching minds
Made journeys on their earthbound charts
That calculated that "time that binds"
With space, to reach more distant parts...

So, you the space-age generations
Who saw the moon men's walk
You can project with new transformations
Where pioneers with distant secrets talk

Your vision each day you may expand
By bending your energies with your will.
The vista is endless and more grand
As you resolve, your high hopes to fulfill.

While looking out we may look within,
To husband all our dormant labors;
That here and now we commit to win,
And make the human race our neighbors.

The need for experts in your field,
Is one that ever is steady mounting.
We hope your endeavors will "bring to yield,"
And, of life, a most worthy broadcasting.

Thanks all my dear and special friends.
The best to you, (name of scholar inserted), with these honors
I too am honored that my name attends,
The testimony of these generous donors . . .

We salute you in the spirit, UU's "sentient heart"
Where search for truth and light abide
Where humanity is evident in rendezvous with art,
And life's wayfarers watch each changing tide. . .

LaGrone Sculpture
Publicly Accessible Sculpture in the Harrisburg, PA, Area:

George Washington Carver
1950, (bust) UCH, Gift from sculptor to UCH, 1973

The Dancer
1958, Penn State Harrisburg, LaGrone Cultural Arts Center; Unpublished LaGrone poem by same name appears in 1976 Master's thesis, "Oliver LaGrone: Time Walker". City of Harrisburg Gov't. Center, Director's Office, Parks, Recreation and Enrichment [M-F, 8am - 5pm, 717-255-3020].

The University as Family
1975, Penn State Harrisburg, Sculpture Garden, and Penn State Scranton, lawn near library

Dr. Carter WoodsonDr. Carter Goodwin Woodson
1987, (bust) Penn State Harrisburg, LaGrone Cultural Arts Center, Gift of Lotus J. Johnson, Oliver's daughter, 1998

Harriet TubmanHarriet Tubman
1987, (bust) UCH foyer, Gift from sculptor to UCH

Ballet to Disco
1979, UCH sanctuary, Gift of Lowery and Marilyn McHenry, 1999 (base constructed and gifted by John Quimby) "So on a clean sheet of paper and with a ball point pen I found my hand operating as a stylus recording the 'minimum essentials' in a symbolic replay of the visual experiences which had made such an indelible dynamic impress on my psyche." Oliver LaGrone, 1999
Martin Luther King Jr.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
(bust) State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, reserve, Catalog #86.45


  • You are a student at the Harrisburg Public High Schools or a graduate of the Harrisburg School District (graduates must apply within five years of their graduation)
  • You are an applicant at an accredited post-secondary institution such as a college, business school, technical school, school of nursing, or an institute of fine arts
  • You are motivated to continue your education despite obstacles
  • You can demonstrate financial need
  • You have gained knowledge and skills from life that will help you succeed in the future


Application & Selection of Recipient
You must complete the scholarship application form. You must attach two other items:
  • Copies of your transcripts from at least the past two semesters,
  • A brief portrayal of YOU! This can be in written form, or you can get creative, as described on the application.
  • Assistance is available to complete this form or other financial assistance applications. Just call the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg at (717) 564-4761. If you need additional space to answer any question in this application, feel free to add a separate sheet.
The Selection Committee will include members of the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg and representatives of the local community. Interviews will be scheduled after submitted applications have been reviewed.

The scholarship may be used for any legitimate costs connected with schooling, such as tuition, room, board, books, transportation, and child care. With satisfactory academic performance and required documentation, $2,000 will be available to you each year for four years.

Mentor Program

Your mentor and the members of the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg can help you in a variety of ways, if needed. Maybe you're having a problem connecting with a child care provider. Maybe you want tutoring help with a tough math class. Maybe you would appreciate assistance in dealing with the student loan office at your school. Maybe ... You get the idea. Help will be matched to your particular needs if you would like help dealing with a problem that will affect your doing your best in school. In other words, your mentor and the larger UCH community can assist scholarship winners in a variety of ways. Your mentor will do their best to arrange the match between your needs and the available assistance in any reasonable way possible. Scholars are wise to consider asking for assistance when needed. But, if you don't need or want any help, that's OK too - no scholar is forced into spending undesired time with their mentor.
Application Form
The Application Form is located here. Applications also should be available at Harrisburg High School Counseling Office. Assistance is available to complete this form or other financial assistance applications.
LaGrone Scholarship Funds

The Oliver LaGrone Scholarship Fund is administered by the Investment Committee of the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg. The OLS Fund is a restricted fund, used only to provide financial assistance for post-secondary education aspirations of Harrisburg School District students.


OLS Committee Annual Events


The OLS Committee works year-round to fulfill our mission. Annual tasks include:
  • Scholarship application refinement
  • Scholar, Mentor, and Committee social events
  • Review applications for completeness
  • Convene Scholar Selection Panel
  • Fundraising
  • Harrisburg High School Award Night participation
  • News releases
  • Award Ceremony
  • Scholar Reception
  • Maintaining memory book of Scholars and of Oliver’s sculptures