“Each of the undergraduate deans dedicated a percentage of their scholarship funds to students from D.C.,” Deacon notes. “Faculty and staff were also encouraged to make contributions from their paychecks into the fund.”
Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, the program is the cornerstone of Georgetown’s commitment to access and affordability—transforming individual lives and the university itself.
“Beyond providing an academic-intensive experience that allowed students to succeed and excel, this program was also an early and direct response to racial injustice,” says Charlene Brown-McKenzie (C’95), director of the university’s Center for Multicultural Equity and Access and a former Community Scholar herself.
“Georgetown had to ask itself, ‘What is our responsibility to D.C.?’ It was justice in action.”
For the initial group of Community Scholars, the transition to campus life on the Hilltop was not easy. At the time, Black students made up just 1 percent of total enrollment.
“It was a tremendous culture shock for me,” says Bruce Mason (C’72). “There were so few of us at the time that we naturally banded together.” The small Black student body launched the Black Student Alliance (BSA), which provided influential support for CSP and also raised scholarship funds for the program.
Student activism from the BSA played a major role in the hiring of Roy Cogdell in 1970 as director of community student programs. The first Black person to hold a highlevel administrative position at Georgetown since President Patrick Healy, S.J., Cogdell developed a solid foundation for Community Scholars and worked with groups like the BSA to increase recruitment and retention of Black students, faculty, and staff.
“Any institution dedicated to the kind of excellence in education that we stand for at Georgetown must make certain that it doesn’t provide this education only for the few,” Cogdell wrote at the time. “This kind of opportunity has to be available to young people of all backgrounds who are creative, ambitious, and hard-working enough to go through what is necessary to make the best possible use of it.”
The arrival of John Thompson Jr. as Hoya basketball coach in 1972 also made a critical difference for recruitment, highlighting Black excellence at the university.
“Georgetown became an iconic school for Black students because of the exposure and Thompson’s outspokenness on big issues,” says Deacon. “The university gained a level of credibility with the Black community, which had begun with the Community Scholars Program.”