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The Ridley Scholarship Program

The Ridley Scholarship Program seeks to attract Black students of the highest academic caliber and build a community of learning, leadership and legacy for Black students at the University of Virginia.

The History of the Walter N. Ridley Scholarship Fund

Dr. Walter N. Ridley
Dr. Walter N. Ridley

In 1953, Dr. Walter N. Ridley earned a doctorate of education degree from the University of Virginia, becoming the first Black graduate of the University and the first Black to receive an academic doctoral degree from a traditional southern white college or university. He graduated with high honors and his pioneering achievements in desegregating the University were noted in the national and international press at the time.

During the inaugural Black Alumni Weekend in 1987, the late John Merchant—a 1958 graduate, and the first Black recipient of a Juris Doctor degree from the UVA School of Law—suggested that a scholarship be created in Dr. Ridley’s honor. What began as a $500 book award has since grown into a host of scholarships for incoming first-year and upper-class students.

Read more about the history of the fund here.

Our Vision

To cultivate a thriving community for Black Scholars that amplifies Black Excellence at UVA, empowering scholars to succeed as leaders at the University, in their communities, and beyond.

Our Mission

The Ridley Scholarship Program honors excellence through scholarships and fosters connection and belonging through programming and mentorship to enrich Ridley Scholars’ academic, leadership, and community impact while enhancing diversity at the University.

Our Values

  • Scholarship—To enrich the academic caliber of the University.
  • Leadership—To enhance the leadership skills of Ridley Scholars and amplify the voices of Black Alumni to influence University leaders’ decision-making and perspective.
  • Legacy—To create a lasting, positive contribution to the University that upholds the legacy of Dr. Walter N. Ridley, our namesake and first Black graduate of the University of Virginia.

In Partnership with the UVA Alumni Association