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Interview with Blythe Waters

Recently, the UVA Club of Jax sat down with Jacksonville native Blythe Waters (Col ’98) to discuss how she became interested in the Scholarship as both a donor and Governance Committee member.

UVA Club of Jax: Blythe, thanks for taking some time to chat with us. It’s no secret many colleges and universities have regional appeal to students due to proximity to their hometowns. As a Jacksonville high school student, UVA does not check the local school box. What made you aware of UVA as a higher education option?

Blythe Waters: It’s an interesting story. My aunt, who was a teacher, took her middle school students to Washington, D.C. for a school field trip. She took a side excursion to Monticello as part of that trip. When she came back, she said “I found the school for you!” I was in seventh or eighth grade at the time. When it came time to look at colleges, I remembered that and eventually made a trip to Charlottesville. I fell in love with the history of the place, the beauty of the place. I took a tour of the Academical Village and just fell in love with the Jeffersonian ideal of the Renaissance Man where all disciplines were important. I liked Jefferson’s idea of creating good citizens and voters through education. While the idea that planters’ sons needed an education to fully realize democracy seemed both infinitely true and outdated, I saw evidence on grounds that the University’s sense of inclusivity and reckoning with its complicated history was already changing. I liked the idea of being true to Jefferson’s ideals and being a part of the change shaping those ideals for the 21st century.

UVA Club of Jax: I understand you received a scholarship to study at the University. How did that factor into your decision to attend UVA?

Blythe Waters: Family influence was a huge factor here as well. My mother was a guidance counselor at my high school. She believed that going away to college was a great way to broaden your horizons, and working in the public school system she chased down as many merit scholarships as she could for her students. For many of the students at Stanton the cost of attendance at out-of-state or private schools was a financial burden that meant significant indebtedness for both students and their families. In the course of her work matching students to scholarship opportunities, she found out about the Jefferson Scholarship. At the time, the Jefferson Scholarships were awarded differently than they are today. You didn’t apply to be a Jefferson Scholar outright; they selected you from the applicant pool to compete for the Scholarship. I was selected to potentially earn one of seven at-large scholarships and was fortunate to be a recipient.

My goal was to attend UVA, and maybe get into an Ivy League so I could say I turned them down! Although UVA was my first choice, I needed a scholarship to make my dream come true AND be financially responsible. I also already knew that I planned to pursue a graduate degree and I needed to consider at least 4 more years of education. My short list of colleges was Vanderbilt, the University of Florida, the University of Virginia, Emory University and Boston College. I had scholarship packages from other schools I was considering, but as soon as I learned about the Jefferson scholarship my decision was made. As at out-of-stater, the cost of UVA was prohibitive. Although UVA was my first choice, without a scholarship, I could not have afforded to attend.

UVA Club of Jax: How did receiving your scholarship impact your time at UVA?

Blythe Waters: The Jefferson Scholars program had commitments tied to it that were very beneficial. It exposed me to leadership outside of UVA. It made me aware of what was out there after school; it set the next bar for achievement. I ended up meeting future Fulbright, Truman, and Oxford scholars. The financial freedom from the traditional tuition burden allowed me to return home to Florida more often than I could have, and to take occasional trips that enriched my studies. It provided a more well-rounded student experience that was otherwise unavailable.

UVA Club of Jax: How has your UVA experience influenced your decision to, one, donate to the UVA Club of Jax Scholarship; and, two, participate in the Scholarship’s Leadership Committee?

Blythe Waters: The University is such a great opportunity for exposure to history and a great education. I want other kids from our area to have that chance. Our committee’s legwork now builds the reputation and brand of UVA in our community. Knowing there is a potential tuition-free way to get an education as great as UVA’s is something to strive for.

I value the relationships that have come from the UVA Club of Jax. Many of my contacts aren’t just great professionals; they are also active in causes around Jacksonville. We’re a tight-knit group and share a common love of UVA, but also shared values—integrity, civic engagement—which are more valuable than an education, and we received those in part from UVA. There is more beyond life after college than just career and family. Being a part of your local community is part of UVA, to use what you’ve learned for the greater good. Hopefully, the students we send away from Jacksonville to Charlottesville will someday come back and become engaged in their communities and lead.

We are thankful for our passionate Committee members who help drive the scholarship progress. If you would like to participate in the committee, please contact Lee Poechmann at Wahoowa!