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11/10/2011

Taylor family's scholarships help students from the Muskogee and Eufaula communities

Scholarships
Left to right are Alan Taylor, Janny Gandhi, Jericha McGill, and Warren Taylor.

Two OU students have been honored with scholarships established with gifts from a family with deep roots in the Muskogee and Eufaula communities.   They are Jericha McGill, who is the first recipient of the Emery Taylor Scholarship, which was created by his children; and Janny Gandhi, who received the first Joyce M. Taylor Memorial Scholarship, established by her brothers Alan and Warren.

Jericha McGill

When Jericha McGill learned last year that she was the recipient of the Emery Taylor Endowed Scholarship at OU, she could barely contain her enthusiasm.  McGill, who has always found ways to give back to the community (she was donating blood when she learned of receiving the scholarship), was now on the receiving end.

The Muskogee native knew the funds would go a long way in helping her achieve her dreams of a college education.

“It was really cool finding out I got it,” said McGill, a sophomore in communication. “A few weeks later, on the OU website, there was a story about the scholarship. … The story had so much more about the family and the parent whom the scholarship was named after.  Just finding out about the heritage of the scholarship, I was like, ‘Wow, I have so much to live up to.’ But it has really helped me so much.  It has taken care of books and tuition and so many other costs that college has.”

The Emery Taylor Scholarship was established in 2010 by siblings Warren, Alan and the late Joyce Taylor to carry forward the legacy of their father, who fostered their interest in learning and encouraged them to realize their dreams.  It provides assistance to students graduating from high schools in Muskogee and Eufaula.  The Taylor family hopes this scholarship will enhance diversity and opportunity at OU by helping first-generation students and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

McGill, a student employee at OU’s Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center, will be eligible to receive the $1,000 annual award for the remainder of her time at OU, providing she continues to meet the academic criteria.

McGill called the scholarship a “blessing” and an “inspiration.”

“We have so many great things that happen in Muskogee,” McGill said. Knowing that there are people who leave Muskogee and go on to do great things -- Alan and Warren and their sister, Joyce -- just hearing all the great things they accomplished, I am like, ‘Wow, they grew up in the same part of town, we come from the same background,’ so it’s an extra boost of confidence. They made a name for themselves, and I can, too.”

Janny Gandhi

Ask Janny Gandhi where she sees herself in five years and her eyes beam with enthusiasm. “Corporate PR,” she says without hesitation. The confident freshman has done her research on careers and knows which one best blends her business acumen with her love of communicating ideas.

She said she chose the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication because “there are so many opportunities here.”  Majoring in journalism (public relations track), with a minor in business, Gandhi may be confident in her studies, but less so on how to pay for them.

That’s why Gandhi, who is from Muskogee, was excited to learn that she would be the first recipient of the Joyce M. Taylor Endowed Memorial Scholarship, a four-year $1,000 award for a journalism student established by brothers Alan and Warren Taylor to honor the life and carry forward the legacy of their sister, Joyce, who passed away last year at age 53. 

For Gandhi, the scholarship will help with the costs of college.  Her parents are small business owners who have taken a hit during this tough economic climate.

“Because my family owns a small business and with the downturn of the economy, it’s really affecting us,” she said. “They have savings set aside, but it’s difficult for them to know how much they can devote to tuition. Any amount of money will help tremendously right now. This scholarship is just really cool and, because it’s for all four years, it adds a significant amount to assist with books, tuition, and residence costs.”

Gandhi knows she has some big shoes to fill as she tries to carry on the legacy of the scholarship’s namesake.   A 1979 OU Phi Beta Kappa journalism graduate, Joyce Taylor went on to become a highly successful and admired businesswoman.  She began her professional career as a reporter in Muskogee, and later joined Southwestern Bell, where she held positions of increasing responsibility, ultimately advancing to Regional President, Bay Area, and then Senior Vice President, External Affairs-Northern California, AT&T. 

Joyce also had a passion for community service, working to improve, enrich and positively impact the lives of others.  She is honored as one of eight Bay Area humanitarians in the “Remember Them: Champions for Humanity,” a bronze monument in Oakland, Calif.

Taylor’s professional career and commitment to service provide a model for success, Gandhi said.

“It means living up to a lot,” she said. “She accomplished a tremendous amount of things. It means succeeding to the fullest and accomplishing as much as possible.”

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