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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Meet Central Scholarship’s Tierra Dorsey The First African American President in its 97-Year History

On January 20, 2021, Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president of the United States, becoming the first woman, first African American and first Asian American to hold the office. Simultaneously, another event was taking place that would set the course for another “first” to take place. Tierra Dorsey received a phone call informing her that she had been chosen to serve as president of Central Scholarship, becoming the first African American president in the organization’s 97-year-history.

   “I was offered the position on the same day that Kamala Harris was inaugurated as the first African American vice president,” recalled Dorsey. “I was watching the program, and my phone started ringing. I will never forget that Inauguration Day. To be chosen to serve as president of Central Scholarship on such a historic day is such an honor.”

   Originally founded in 1924 to help Baltimore-area Jewish men to access higher education, Central Scholarship provides scholarships and interest free loans to help fund the financial gap between high school and post-secondary education. The organization also educates students about college affordability, and advocates for public policy to improve access to college and career training for low-income students. 

   “Although I may be the first person of color to serve as president of Central Scholarship, this 

organization has had a long-standing history of spearheading and supporting diversity and inclusion in the educational system,” said Dorsey. “A lot of people don’t realize the integral role women have played here at Central Scholarship.”

   Noting other women including Eleanor Levy, who served on the organization’s Board Leadership from 1948-1951, Dorsey added, “Eleanor Levy’s leadership and the role other women have played in Central Scholarship has been really strong. I believe it was inevitable that this would happen, and I am so proud to hold this honor.” 

   Dorsey assumed the role of president on March 1, 2021, succeeding Jan Wagner, who retired after nearly 20 years of service.

   “Many people have never heard of Central Scholarship, and it really does surprise them that the organization has been around for almost 100 years, and they have never heard of us,” said Dorsey. “But one of my short-term goals is to increase awareness of the organization. We have a great reputation in the community with those who know about us. I want to protect that brand and that reputation. But I also want to raise awareness outside of the organization’s current community about what we’re doing, why we’re doing what we are doing, and how we’re having an impact on Maryland.”

   According to Dorsey, in addition to news media and social media efforts, awareness opportunities include a virtual presentation in April for the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA), which seeks to advance the collective impact of scholarship providers and the scholarships they award.

   “NSPA is a large and well-known organization,” said Dorsey. “Presenting in April provides  another platform for me to raise awareness about Central Scholarship. Another one of my goals is to have a better grip on our donor management system here. Technology is important in this industry, and I felt it was time to bring us into the 21st century as it relates to technology and outreach. I wanted look at what we achieved, and how we can do it more efficiently and impactfully. These are some of the short-term goals that I set, and I am pretty happy to say that coming up on my first-year anniversary, I was able to accomplish them.” 

   In her first year as president, Dorsey also garnered 80 new donors. 

    “I also want to see us grow our board,” said Dorsey. “Central Scholarship will be turning 100-years-old in a few years. And if nothing else, I want to ensure that this organization is around for another one hundred or more years. I want to increase the sustainability of the support we provide. To be sustainable, you have to be on top of your game and be aware of what’s happening in your industry.” 

   Dorsey holds a M.S. in Management and Policy from the University of Maryland and a B.A. in Business Management from Notre Dame of Maryland University. Prior to her appointment at Central Scholarship, she was Executive Director of Development at Goucher College. Her extensive strategic business development and fundraiser experience also includes serving as Director of Major Gifts at Towson University and Senior Major Gifts Officer at Maryland Institute College of Art. 

   Central Scholarship has awarded over 300 students with more than $1 million-per-year in scholarships and financial aid, ultimately helping to remove barriers to education and offer them a lifetime of economic opportunity and mobility.

   Dorsey, 55, says her work allows her to carry on the legacy of her late grandmother, Mary Bond. 

   “This is my dream job because I am leading an organization whose mission matches my priorities, which is helping and giving…things that were sowed in me by my grandmother,” said Dorsey. “She provided me with the foundation on the importance of giving back to the church. One of the reasons I applied for this position is because Central Scholarship gives so much to provide support for students to go to college.”

   For more information about Central Scholarship, visit https://central-scholarship.org.

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