A Spirit Preserved through Academic Opportunity: Scharlene Oney Branum

Victoria CalvertLeave a Comment

John G. Fee Legacy Wall

The John G. Fee Glade Legacy Wall lists the more than 3,000 names of those who have included Berea in their wills or made life income agreements with the College that resulted in a charitable gift.

Scharlene Oney Branum graduated from Berea College in 1947. Maintaining a connection with her alma mater throughout her life, Scharlene ultimately chose to include Berea in her estate plans and became a member of the Great Commitments Society. After she passed away at the age of 91, the College received 20 percent of Scharlene’s estate. With this final tribute, Scharlene will forever be part of the Berea College family and campus.

Scharlene Oney Branum

Scharlene Oney Branum

Born and raised in Kentucky, Scharlene was the first person in her family to have the opportunity to attend college. With her tuition covered at Berea, she worked in the Labor Program office to earn money for clothing and books.Scharlene earned her degree in English and taught elementary and high school for several years in Kentucky and Tennessee. She then relocated to Baltimore, Md., where she continued to teach, along the way earning a master’s degree in education from Johns Hopkins University. Scharlene retired in 1985.

Over the years, Scharlene remained in contact with her alma mater. She attended campus events and enjoyed catching up with fellow alumni. In the 1990s, she also was part of an effort to organize a Berea Alumni and Friends chapter in Baltimore. When her health eventually prevented Scharlene from attending reunions in Berea, she appreciated receiving phone calls and home visits from Berea staff.

“They always tell you not to worry about what happens to your possessions after you die, but I started working at age 10, and everything I’ve worked for, I want to see it continue on.”

During a phone call with planned giving staff, Scharlene shared that she still loved to read—especially magazines–because her family could not afford such things when she was a child.

“They always tell you not to worry about what happens to your possessions after you die,” Scharlene said, “but I started working at age 10, and everything I’ve worked for, I want to see it continue on.”

In late 2016, Scharlene was buried in Forest Hills, Ky. Roughly 100 miles from her final resting place, Scharlene’s name has been engraved on Berea’s Legacy Wall in Fee Glade, where she joins the company of Great Commitments Society members who are no longer with us in body. Here, Scharlene’s legacy as a champion for academic opportunity will live on eternally.

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