The West Virginia division of the American Civil Liberties Union has named a scholarship in honor of Dr. William Denman, emeritus professor of communication studies at Marshall and a longtime ACLU activist and fundraiser who helped organize the state’s first chapter and served as the organization’s president four times.
At its recent meeting in Charleston, the ACLU board created the scholarship, the ACLU of West Virginia Foundation’s William Denman Youth Activist Scholarship, and made a donation to the ACLU’s Fund for Justice, which supports legal and educational programs. The scholarship offers recipients $7,000 toward their first year of college.
David Bender, a Marshall freshman with a double major in English and journalism, was the first recipient. A graduate of Nitro High School, Bender was selected on the basis of “his dedication to promoting acceptance of people of all races, cultures and religions,” according to a release from the ACLU.
“It is an honor to receive this scholarship from the ACLU of West Virginia Foundation and I deeply appreciate it,” Bender said. “I strongly believe in protecting civil liberties and promoting the acceptance of all people and their cultures. I plan to devote my life to public service or investigative journalism.”
In his application essay, Bender said in order to protect civil liberties people must work together as a nation and pay attention to the “small things that we do every day…the things that are the most important.” He wrote that “Every day in American schools, students are abused verbally and even physically simply because of their religion, sexual orientation, their ethnicity, as well as many other reasons, this occurrence is unacceptable and must be changed.”
Denman’s career at Marshall began in 1965 when the accepted a position in the Department of Speech, where he remained until 1986, when he was named acting director of the Society of Yeager Scholars. In 1992 he returned to teaching full-time as a professor of communication studies, and became the department chair in 1993. He retired in December 2003.
Denman has been a longtime supporter and fundraiser for the ACLU and has educated others in the importance of civil liberties, said Naomi Cohen, vice president of development for the state ACLU, “It was Bill Denman, who as a young instructor at Marshall University in 1968 sought to bring West Virginia civil libertarians together to found chapters of the ACLU here in the state.” she said in a statement.
Dr. Marybeth Beller, associate professor and chair of the political science department, and a member of the ACLU Board, is chair of the Denman scholarship committee. Applicants for the scholarships must be high school seniors who have demonstrated a strong commitment to civil liberties and are planning to enter an accredited college or university as a full-time, degree-seeking student. Applicants must have attained a cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale at the time of graduation. Demonstrated financial need will increase a student’s chances of qualifying for the scholarship.
For information about the scholarship, contact Nancy Hill at (304) 345-9246 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can be sent to ACLU of West Virginia Foundation, William Denman Youth Activist Scholarships, P.O. Box 3952, Charleston, WV 25339-3952.