BOONE, N.C. — Four first-year students at Appalachian State University have been named recipients of the Dr. Willie C. Fleming Scholarship — a merit-based award designed to support students from underrepresented populations.
The scholarship was established by alumni to honor Dr. Willie C. Fleming ’80 ’84 for his many contributions to App State.
“This year’s outstanding Fleming Scholars, along with the 23 scholars who came before them, represent Dr. Fleming’s legacy and his nearly four decades of dedication to the advancement of diversity and inclusion at App State,” said App State Chancellor Sheri Everts.
Judge Gary Henderson ’92 ’94, who presides over Mecklenburg County’s 26th Judicial District, initiated the Fleming Scholarship in 2011. He and Dr. Reneé Evans ’97 ’99, a founder of the Appalachian African American Network (AAAN) and then-president of the organization, formed a committee consisting of members of the African American alumni community to fully develop, implement and engage alumni to give toward the scholarship and its endowment. Evans and Henderson co-chair the scholarship’s endowment committee, and many of the endowment’s donors are AAAN members.
“We thank Judge Henderson and Dr. Evans for creating a scholarship that honors Dr. Fleming’s legacy and the legacy of each Fleming Scholar. As lead donors, they championed a highly collaborative effort to garner overwhelming support for this influential and impactful program,” Everts said.
The 2021–22 recipients:
- Charles Johnson III, of Parkton.
- R.J. Johnson Jr., of Franklinton.
- Victoria Smith, of Raleigh.
- Khaden Watson, of Charlotte.
The Fleming Scholarship program, now in its seventh year, covers full in-state tuition and fees for up to four consecutive years. The renewable scholarship includes mentorship by alumni, the opportunity to participate in inclusivity-focused events, and networking and team building within each group of recipients.
Fleming Scholars are selected based on their academic excellence and their desire to promote cultural diversity. As members of the App State Community, the scholars are called on to speak publicly and assume the responsibility of leadership, scholarship and community involvement.
Meet the 2021–22 Fleming Scholars
Interested in learning more about App State’s 2021–22 Fleming Scholars? In this video, the scholars share details about their App State Experience and the opportunities afforded them through the Fleming Scholars program. Video by Jawoin Williams, App State University Housing coordinator
Khaden Watson: Hi, my name is Khaden Watson. My major is computer science, and I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Victoria Smith: My name is Victoria Smith. I am from Raleigh, North Carolina, and my major is cellular/molecular biology.
Charles Johnson III: My name is Charles Johnson III and I come from a small town called Parkton, North Carolina. And my intended major is accounting.
R.J. Johnson: Hi, my name is R.J. Johnson and I’m from Franklinton, North Carolina. And I plan on majoring in exercise science. A hobby of mine is that I play baseball, and I actually get to play baseball here at Appalachian State University and that means a lot to me because I get to be part of two very special groups. On the baseball field I get to be part of all 35 of my brothers and with the Fleming Scholars I get to be part of a very prestigious group that I feel very connected with.
Victoria Smith: In my free time, I enjoy singing and playing guitar and also doing anything artistic. I also really enjoy driving in my car to different spots across Boone, like Laurel Creek Falls, Thunder Hill Outlook, Raven Rocks, and that sort of thing.
Khaden Watson: One of the things I like most about Appalachian State is probably the location. It’s not too far away from home; it’s about an hour-and-30-minute drive. So I can always have time to go and see my family back at home. Another thing is probably the weather as well. I love the coolness of the air right now. It’s probably early November and it’s just, it’s almost like breathtaking with the leaves as well. And another thing I like about Appalachian State is the football program. Just the feeling of being in the student section, just cheering with my fellow peers, it’s a good experience and our football team is good as well, so that adds on. And probably lastly I would say the atmosphere of the campus; everyone on campus is so inviting. It feels like everyone wants you to do well, including your academic advisers and your teachers. So I would say that’s a big part of my experience as well.
Charles Johnson III: One thing I enjoy the most about being at App State is the small community of people who look like me — African Americans. The fact that I cannot look around the corner and not see a face like mine but know that they’re out there, within arm’s reach, just waiting for me if I need them at any moment’s notice to help me, tutor me, guide me along the right path in case I get lost — just knowing that that small community of people, we create a force, a greater force than I could ever make on my own — is just so relaxing in the mind.
R.J. Johnson: At Appalachian State University, some things I feel like I enjoy the most about it is that I feel like I really fit in. It’s a great atmosphere and I love the culture. I just feel like that I made a lot of friends, and when I’m walking around campus it just feels like home. The mountains are obviously a really great place. The scenery is nice and I just feel like Boone is just a really great place to unlock your true self and be who you want to be. You know, no one will judge you and you can just be yourself.
Charles Johnson III: To be a Fleming Scholar, to me, means to fight — to not only fight for yourself but fight for the others around you. To have a voice. To advocate. To fight for your own notion. To beat against all odds, all favors, so you can come and bring yourself to prove to those who thought you would become nothing that you became something.
Victoria Smith: Getting the chance to be a Fleming Scholar means everything for me — from the fact that I get to graduate debt-free and get to have a start on my life being financially free, while also getting to connect with other scholars who are also Black, but also are like-minded and want to off to do great things means the world.
Khaden Watson: To me, being a Fleming Scholar means to uphold my fellow scholars, academically-wise and I, guess you could say, just on a friendship level. Just having people that you can confide in and just go to whenever you need help, whether it’s about academics or just personal problems, you always have that strong group of people that you just feel comfortable around and you like to do stuff with as well. So that’s what it means to me.
R.J. Johnson: To be a Fleming Scholar, I think that means you’ve accomplished a lot in the classroom, as far as academics goes. It’s a very prestigious group of African American or minority students who have put in the time and studying and just being great students. But, aside from being great students, they are also great in their communities — they give back, they help, and just being an overall great person. So I think that’s what it really means to be a Fleming Scholar.
Victoria Smith: The biggest legacy that I want to leave behind at App State is one of leadership, but also one of being comfortable in your own skin and realizing that those around you may not agree with you or may not look like you, but you still have every right to be there and every right to belong in this place and call it home just as much as the next person.
Charles Johnson III: During my interview to become a Fleming Scholar, I was asked a similar question — why do I want to go to App State? I had asked myself this question many times, and I realized that I came to App State because I thought that App State has such high expectations and that I was just such below the stake of what was required to even be at App State that I wanted to come to App State and eventually when I leave to become bettered at App State. And that’s the legacy I want to leave behind in my name, sign, in anything that pertains to my name should be greatness.
R.J. Johnson: The legacy that I want to leave behind is to show, I guess, the younger generation that it’s possible, especially for African Americans and minorities to make it out and be something. Obviously, nowadays, you kind of see that people or minorities feel like they can’t be anything, and the way the media portrays … all the extra stuff that’s just kind of noise, I just really want to show that it’s possible to be something. And that anybody can do it, and as long as you put your mind to it and work hard that anything’s possible.
Khaden Watson: The legacy I hope to leave behind after I graduate Appalachian State is for people to remember me as a good and honest person who never took no for an answer and was always fighting for what he believed in and made sure I did the right thing while I was here.
What do you think?
Share your feedback on this story.
About the Dr. Willie C. Fleming Scholarship
The Dr. Willie C. Fleming Scholarship is designed to support students from underrepresented populations, with selection based on their desire to promote cultural diversity. In addition to covering full in-state tuition and fees, the renewable scholarship provides mentorship by alumni, the opportunity to participate in inclusivity-focused events, and networking and team building within each cohort of recipients. It was established to honor Dr. Willie C. Fleming ’80 ’84, who founded the Appalachian Gospel Choir and the Black Student Association, was a founding member of the Black Faculty and Staff Association and was also instrumental in bringing black Greek life to the university. Learn more
About Scholarships at App State
Appalachian State University offers students the opportunity to receive a world-class education at an affordable rate, with an average of $25 million awarded to incoming, current and transfer students each year based on need, as well as academic and athletic achievement. On average, about $4.9 million in outside aid is awarded to App State students annually. App State’s Office of Student Financial Aid and University Scholarships assists students in learning about and applying for these university scholarship opportunities and also shares information about non-App State scholarships. Learn more at https://scholarships.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.