Our Vision

To be the premier African American scholarship organization in the nation.

Our Mission

Our mission is to uphold and promote the exemplary principles of our namesake and first African American graduate of the University of Virginia, Dr. Walter N. Ridley through:

Learning:  To contribute to a superior learning environment by providing scholarships to African American students of the highest academic caliber.

Leadership:  To represent issues of importance to African American students and Alumni.

Legacy:  To create a lasting, positive contribution to the University.

The History of the Walter N. Ridley Scholarship Fund

Dr. Walter N. Ridley
Dr. Walter N. Ridley

In 1953, Dr. Ridley earned a doctorate of education degree from the University of Virginia, becoming the first black graduate of the University and the first black to receive an academic doctoral degree from a traditional southern white college or university. He graduated with high honors and his pioneering achievements in desegregating the University were noted in the national and international press at the time.

In 1987, during the biennial Black Alumni Weekend, John Merchant, a 1958 graduate and the first black to receive a jurist doctor degree from UVA., suggested that a fund be created in Dr. Ridley’s honor. Since then, hundreds of alumni, parents, and friends have joined forces to make the scholarship a reality. To date, more than 300 young men and women have benefited from the scholarships.


1987: 220 alumni gather in Charlottesville for the first Black Alumni Weekend. Walter Ridley was honored as the first black graduate.

1987: The Walter N. Ridley Scholarship Fund is established.

1988: Alumnus Anthony Pilaro endows the Jerome Holland Scholarship fund for out of state black students.
Late 1990’s: UVA’s black undergraduate population reaches 10%

2007: In light of UVA’s commitment to meeting the demonstrated financial need of students, Ridley shifts its focus from offering need based scholarships to offering merit based awards.

2008: Ridley increases the size of its flagship award to $10,000.

2009: The Jerome Holland Scholarship is renamed “The Holland-Blackburn Scholarship,” in honor of late Admissions Dean Jack Blackburn.

2010: The Ridley and Holland-Blackburn Scholarship Programs officially merge under the Ridley umbrella; Ridley Scholarship Endowment reaches the $4 million mark.

2011: Ridley increases in-state scholarships to $12,500 and out-of-state scholarships to $40,000.

2012: Ridley Scholarship Endowment reaches the $5 million mark.

2013: Ridley celebrates 25 years at the University of Virginia.  The Ridley Scholarship Endowment reaches $5 million.