By MATT CRANE
Not even death could stand in the way of Lora DeFore helping students realize their dreams.
The Mississippi State University Department of Communication recently awarded six seniors with the Lora J. DeFore Memorial Endowed Scholarship for the first time.
Dolly Adams, DeFore’s mother, said the awarding of the scholarship means so much to her because she knew how much DeFore cared for each of her students.
“It’s a good feeling,” Adams said. “I know Lora would feel proud and honored that she was helping these girls with their goals.”
DeFore was an instructor in the department of communication for over 20 years before succumbing to a hard-fought battle with cancer in 2009. She taught in the areas of public relations, journalism and was the coordinator for the public relations concentration and internship program.
Communication department head John Forde said he and several members of the department spoke with DeFore about establishing a scholarship before her death.
“We came to her in her final days, and she wanted to develop this,” Forde said. “Lora was a wonderful colleague and good friend for over 25 years.”
Frances McDavid, coordinator of the department’s journalism concentration, said the scholarship’s endowment was made possible through a combination of memorial gifts from DeFore’s mother, friends and former students.
The endowment also received proceeds from a theatrical production by Starkville Community Theatre as well as proceeds from the communication department’s annual golf tournament.
In March 2010, DeFore’s best friend Pattye Archer directed a production of “Sorta Love Songs,” written by Scott Burkell and Paul Loesel, a songwriting team from New York who were friends of DeFore’s.
Archer said it is sad DeFore is unable to have the same impact she once did, but that the scholarship opens up another door for her to help.
“She’s just impacting them in a different way now,” Archer. “Her work lives on, and this scholarship is a wonderful tribute to her passion for always putting students first.”
McDavid said the department is awarding a total of $5,000 to six communication students this year who are participating in summer internships.
The students awarded scholarships include: Lindsey Botwinick, a senior public relations major interning with Siren Public Relations in New York; Kelli Conrad, a senior public relations major interning with JDA Frontline in Charleston, S.C.; Megan McKeown, a senior broadcasting major interning with the Fox News Channel in New York City; Morgan Middleton, a senior public relations major interning with the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas; Katie Beth Walton, a senior public relations major interning with The PR Boutique in Houston, Texas; and Molly Riley, a senior journalism and public relations major interning with Viacom and MTV in Santa Monica, Calif.
Although Riley was not able to have DeFore as an instructor, she said she knew of DeFore’s passion for students.
“I wish I had the pleasure of meeting her,” she said, “but it is amazing that she is still able to help students such as myself achieve their goals. This scholarship is a testament to that.”