Tom Leslie ’66 Scholarship Honors Academy’s First Black Graduate

Monday, August 3, 2020
Tom Leslie ’66

Mercersburg Academy is pleased to announce the creation of the Thomas W. Leslie Jr. ’66 Scholarship. Established by the school in June 2020, the Thomas W. Leslie Jr. ’66 Scholarship celebrates the life of Tom Leslie, the school’s first black graduate, and his enduring impact on his classmates, friends, and indeed the entire Mercersburg Academy community. In the wake of profound racial inequities and injustices in our society, the establishment of the Leslie Scholarship recognizes the importance of our black alumni and alumni of color—past, present, and future. 

“As we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Black Student Union and 55 years of black student integration at Mercersburg this past year, we felt it was time to be intentional about recognizing our first black alum, and we hope that establishing this scholarship makes an important statement about our commitment to the diversity, equity, and inclusion work ahead, ” says Head of School Katie Titus.

The idea for this scholarship originated from Mercersburg’s black alumni, spearheaded by Tonya Rutherford ’90, founding president of Mercersburg’s BSU, during a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the BSU at Family and Alumni Weekend 2019. 

“On behalf of the Mercersburg Academy Black alumni community, I am pleased that the school is taking this step to memorialize the important role Black students play in its rich experience and history,” says Rutherford. “As we reflect on and reckon with the overt and covert systemic racism and injustices that persist against Black people in this country, it is my hope that this scholarship is a firm commitment for Mercersburg to begin to lead in the anti-racism movement and to be a model for other independent schools. Leadership in this process requires not only building an anti-racist institution but also creating an environment where the community can do the hard work of learning, accepting and healing from its role in the challenges and hardships that Thomas Leslie and many other Blacks faced as students at the school and correcting those injustices going forward. The Black alumni, along with allies within the school community, will continue to partner with and challenge the administration to ensure that our school is a safe place and one of authentic belonging for Black students and other students of color.”

The scholarship will be awarded each year to a student with financial need from an underrepresented population at Mercersburg who best exemplifies the pioneering spirit of Tom Leslie. The first scholarship will be awarded for the 2021-2022 school year. (Learn more about Mercersburg’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.)

Mercersburg awards approximately $7.7 million in financial aid to members of its student body each year.

Note: This story first appeared in the summer 2020 issue of Mercersburg Academy magazine.