Basketball scholarship pays respect to former student-athlete mentor

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo

Associate Director of Development Chris Monroe said officials will award the scholarship to a member of the men's or women's basketball programs annually.

Men’s and women’s basketball players can soon apply for a scholarship that aims to help student-athletes succeed off the court.

The Leroy Charles Memorial Scholarship, which was created last semester, pays tribute to the former vice president of external affairs of the GW Medical Center, who passed away in February 2019. Charles left behind a legacy of mentorship in the basketball program over the course of his more than 30-year career, something the athletic department’s associate director of development Chris Monroe said was a driving motivation for creating the scholarship.

“It’s important to remember a man who took the time to really show and really connect student athletes to their career paths after basketball,” Monroe said. “As well as to show us that there’s more than sports out there, and especially for minorities, he really put us in a good position to understand the landscape.”

The scholarship, which is still in the process of reaching its $100,000 funding goal, will become an annual award given to a selected member of either the women’s or men’s basketball program to support their GW education, Monroe said. Recipients will be selected by two of the scholarship’s lead donors, including former Medical Center administrator John Williams, along with members of the Charles family.

As a basketball player in his youth, Charles played at Tufts from 1972 to 1976, becoming one of the school’s all-time leading scorers. Upon his arrival at GW in 1986, Charles made it his responsibility to help members of both the men’s and women’s basketball programs find their respective career paths off the court.

One of those student-athletes was Monroe, who played for the Colonials from 1999 to 2003 and became the squad’s all-time leading scorer. Monroe said Charles helped land his first summer internship in 2000 at an accounting firm, a role that greatly influenced the trajectory of his life and ultimately influenced his decision to return to GW.

“He took the time to get to understand my wants and needs and that of my family,” Monroe said. “So I have a personal connection to him, and I always want to honor his memory, not only for what he did for me, but what he’s done for other student athletes, as a mentor, as somebody that was always on call to be able to educate us on how to be good basketball players and how to balance studies as well as life.”

The scholarship is the second basketball-related entity named in Charles’ honor since his death. In late 2019, men’s basketball head coach Jamion Christian revamped the team’s mentorship program and renamed it the Leroy Charles Mentorship Program, to connect student-athletes with professionals in their desired fields of interest.

Monroe said Christian has also worked to help get the scholarship up and running and noted that new women’s basketball coach Caroline McCombs will be brought on board “shortly” to help facilitate a smooth rollout.

He said members of the GW community, specifically basketball alumni, have contributed to the fund because of Charles’ continued mentorship beyond their years at GW, which in some cases lasted until the day he died. Monroe added that Charles’ former colleagues at the GW Hospital have also been key contributors to the fund.

“His impact there amongst staff, faculty and friends in the program is huge,” Monroe said. “Leroy was a season ticket holder, so he was very involved, very engaged with the GW community and had a vested interest in seeing the student athletes succeed, and so everybody’s happy to see that his name and his efforts are still being recognized today.”

He said the scholarship program will help foster a greater sense of community by engaging alumni and potentially boosting recruitment efforts.

“Somebody starts something and then people say, ‘Hey, that’s what I want to be a part of,’” Monroe said. “So from a recruiting standpoint, for coaches from an alumni engagement standpoint, from a faculty and staff standpoint, it’s great, and it shows that the GW community really cares about their student athletes and wants to put them in the best position possible.”

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