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Gifts from Pruitt’s create VGCC scholarships


Before his recent passing, W. Leonard Pruitt and his wife, Dr. Dorothy Pruitt, both of Oxford, established two scholarship funds at Vance-Granville Community College to support students preparing for careers in health care.

First, a gift from the Pruitt’s will create the Leonard and Dorothy Pruitt Presidential Excellence Award, a full VGCC scholarship, which will cover a student’s tuition, books and fees. In awarding this scholarship, preference will be given to students in Health Sciences programs at the community college, as well as students from Granville County.

Second, a planned bequest will fund the Dr. Dorothy Jean Gooch Pruitt and Mr. William Leonard Pruitt Endowed Scholarship Fund for the ECU Medical and Health Sciences Foundation, a unique scholarship that will take students through the community college and then to East Carolina University.

When fully endowed, this fund will provide scholarships for multiple full-time VGCC students each year, who are planning to transfer to study health sciences at East Carolina University. This scholarship will also target students from Granville County. Future student recipients, to be called “Pruitt Scholars,” will receive funds to cover all their tuition, books and fees at VGCC. After they transfer to ECU, these scholars will have many of their educational expenses covered by a similar scholarship that the Pruitt’s have established there.

Dorothy Jean Gooch enrolled at East Carolina in 1953 to study Home Economics. After moving back to her native Granville County to teach — first at Oxford High School and later at J.F. Webb High School — she met Leonard Pruitt. Together, the couple has made an indelible impact on their community.

Mr. Pruitt was a tobacco buyer for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for 40 years, and raised beef cattle, fruits and vegetables for many years, as well. Along the way, he became well-known in Oxford for helping his neighbors, delivering produce (especially strawberries) to friends, and regularly lending a hand at the school where his wife, Dorothy, worked. He served on the Jury Commission of Granville County and was recognized for community service by the Granville County Chamber of Commerce in 2006. Pruitt was also an active member at Oxford Baptist Church, where he was named “Deacon Emeritus.” He died on March 31, 2021, at the age of 95.

Likewise, Dr. Pruitt has been active in her community, serving Granville County and the state of North Carolina for a total of 46 years as a teacher, principal, Department of Public Instruction consultant and Granville County Board of Education member. She was the first woman elected to that board, which she eventually chaired. Among her many honors, Dr. Pruitt accepted a national model school award from President George H.W. Bush while she served as principal at C.G. Credle Elementary School, received the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service, and was inducted into the ECU College of Education Educators Hall of Fame. Recognized as an “Incredible ECU Woman” in 2010, she is a member of the ECU College of Health and Human Performance Cornerstone Society.

The Pruitt’s have already established several scholarships at VGCC in honor of Mr. Pruitt’s late sister: the Myrtle Jane Pruitt Presidential Scholar Award and five Myrtle Jane Pruitt Academic Achievement scholarships.

“A true team in every sense of the word, Dr. Dorothy Pruitt and Mr. W. Leonard Pruitt were partners for 58 years, and we join Dr. Pruitt in mourning the loss of her husband,” said Eddie Ferguson, executive director of the Vance-Granville Community College Foundation. “They shared a belief in education and together, they have established innovative scholarship funds that will provide life-changing educational opportunities for deserving students, particularly those with a desire to transfer to Dr. Pruitt’s beloved alma mater.”

“We are grateful to the Pruitt’s for their incredible generosity and their passionate support for education, which will help our students prepare for their own careers of service,” said Dr. Rachel Desmarais, the president of VGCC. “The success of future ‘Pruitt Scholars’ will serve as a lasting tribute to Dr. Pruitt and Mr. Pruitt’s love for their community, for our college and for our partners at ECU.”

The VGCC Foundation (formerly known as the Endowment Fund) has enabled more than 9,700 scholarships to be awarded to students since 1982. Scholarships have been endowed by numerous individuals, industries, businesses, civic groups, churches and the college’s faculty and staff. Tax-deductible donations to the VGCC Foundation have often been used to honor or remember a person, group, business or industry with a lasting gift to education. For more information, call (252) 738-3409.

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