For Robert Luckett, education and encouraging young people was the passion of a lifetime.
“Education was always it for him,” his wife, Jeanne, recalled. “He always knew he was going to teach.”
The eighth of ten children in a Kentucky farming family, he was the first to graduate from college. A basketball scholarship to St. Leo College in Florida helped him get the first two years of college he needed before being recruited to transfer to Millsaps College.
Much of his tenure was spent as a principal – from Jim Hill High School to St. Joseph High School and for many years, Richland High School – where he touched the lives of countless students. Throughout his career, Robert was always focused on those that did not have much.
“He was all about inclusion, particularly those that had the least, helping them have opportunities,” Jeanne said. “He had a break and opportunities when he had nothing. That is what the scholarship is all about.”
In 2000, Robert was diagnosed with cancer, passing away two years later at the age of 57. Over the course of his illness, donations came in to support the family. What to do with the heartfelt gifts from his community? Jeanne and her son, Robby, decided to create a scholarship fund at the Community Foundation for Mississippi to honor his lifelong dedication to education and children.
“Robby and I decided the best thing would be to take that money and establish a scholarship fund. We started out with just one scholarship and then the money at the Foundation grew so wonderfully.”
Why create a fund at CFM? “I loved what the Community Foundation stood for. We felt like we wanted the money to be close and local,” Jeanne said. “We didn’t want it to be with a bank. We wanted it to be some place where the money would generate some good as well.”
This year, Destiny Lesh and Kaygan Harrison heard Jeanne announce their names from the Senior Awards Night stage at Richland High School for the Robert E. Luckett Scholarship. Both graduating seniors will attend Hinds Community College in the fall. The $500 awards are based on a combination of merit, need and teacher recommendation.
When looking at the impact Luckett had on the Richland community, there’s never more than one degree of separation. Richland High School counselor Michelle Cresap, who facilitates the scholarship selection process, had Robert as her principal.
“He was an incredible person,” she said on stage before announcing the award recipients. “We all remember him.”
Thinking back to recipients over the years, Jeanne says she is so impressed by those receiving the award. “They have sent the nicest thank you notes. You cannot imagine,” she said. “I keep in touch.”
For Jeanne, the fund and award are a full circle moment each year, seeing the impact her late husband had on the community.
“He loved kids and wanted to encourage them to further their education and pursue college. Through this fund, we help them do just that.”