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Law student creates scholarship in memory of his slain sister

Law student Berry White has started a scholarship in honor of his sister. Photo: Michael Richmond

On Oct. 8, 2003, DU law student Berry White received devastating news: His vivacious 21-year-old sister had been killed in what was thought to be a drug-related crime. Her case is still waiting to be heard by a grand jury.

After White got over the initial shock, he made the proverbial lemonade. He decided to help those pursing careers as criminal prosecutors by founding the Bobbie Lou Mae White Endowment at DU’s Sturm College of Law.

Tuition for the DU law school is about $26,000 per year, and oftentimes, graduates cannot pursue careers in prosecution because the pay won’t cover their student loan payments. “I hope this scholarship enables graduates to go after their dreams and make a difference,” says White, who is in his third year at the College of Law.

White remembers his sister as a fireball. When she was 17 and still in high school, she wanted to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, but she needed to be 18 and enrolled in a college or university. “That didn’t matter to her. She made it to the finals before they realized she didn’t meet their qualifications,” he laughs. “She had this amazing ability to go after things, even if people told her she couldn’t do it. Once her mind was made up, it was like no one could stop her.”

There’s no stopping her brother, either. The University requires $50,000 to endow a scholarship. If funds aren’t readily available, there is a five-year window to raise the money. Kristin Carlson, director of annual and special giving at the College of Law, assumed it would take years before the Bobbie Lou Mae White scholarship could be endowed.

But, with numerous volunteers holding benefit events—including golf tournaments and car washes—around the country, White is ahead of schedule. “I am so amazed and appreciative of how people bend over backwards to help,” White says. Within the first month, he had a $25,000 donation and as of mid September 2004, less than one year into fundraising, White was just $2,000 from his mark.

“Berry is an impressive young man. I don’t know how he found time between being a full-time student, working part-time at the Arapahoe County district attorney’s office and working as editor-in-chief of the Transportation Law Journal, and still do this within a year,” Carlson says, noting that White is the first known DU law student to establish an endowed scholarship fund.

Second- and third-year law students are eligible for the scholarship if they maintain a 3.0 GPA and can prove their interest in criminal prosecution by supplying a letter from a district attorney for whom they have interned or volunteered. Based on interviews with select candidates, the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council recommends a scholarship recipient to the College of Law.

Once the endowment reaches $50,000, the White Scholarship will be awarded annually; once it hits $500,000, the scholarship will cover one year’s tuition. This year, a partial award was given: Troy Sandberg, who graduates this December, received $2,500. “I’m very grateful to Berry White, who has put a lot of hard work and personal sacrifice into creating this tribute to his sister by funding law students who are truly in need,” Sandberg says. “I’m honored to have been the first recipient of the Bobbie Lou Mae White Scholarship.”

For White, the meaning of the scholarship comes from those who receive it: “My sister no longer has any opportunities, but her name is now associated with giving opportunities every time a scholarship is awarded.”

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