D.A. Taylor Scholarship Memorializes Outstanding Student

When Deshannon Artemis "D.A." Taylor died at age 16, his Norfolk Academy classmates immediately wanted to honor his memory. "But we couldn't get anything organized, and we didn't want to do something without the blessing of D.A.'s family," recalls Drew McKnight, D.A.'s best friend since third grade.

D.A.'s death 12 years ago stunned his family and classmates who couldn't imagine "seeing someone who looked so strong and healthy get knocked down so quickly,” says his father Stan Taylor of Virginia Beach. Meningococcal meningitis contracted at a track meet put the "A” student and renowned football and lacrosse player into a coma for a month before he died in March 1995. During D.A.'s illness, his classmates and their parents joined his family in "an almost round-the-clock vigil at the hospital,” Taylor says.

D.A.'s friends moved on through high school to college and careers, but they never forgot "the big guy who had a way of making everyone feel like they knew him and wanted to be with him,” McKnight says. "He was a special person who doesn't come around that often.”

In 2004 D.A.'s friends got the opportunity to create a living memorial to their friend when Gale Taylor, D.A.'s mother, called McKnight to say she was ready "to see you guys.” Out of their initial conversations grew the D.A. Taylor Charitable Foundation created in 2005. A dozen of D.A.'s former classmates and his family banded together to sponsor fundraising cookouts and concerts in San Francisco, New York and Hampton Roads. Their goal was to provide scholarships to students who exemplify the spirit of D.A. – a hard-working National Merit Scholarship semifinalist who planned to be a physician and was being recruited by colleges for his academic and athletic prowess.

After exploring the best ways to administer scholarships, in 2006 the D.A. Taylor Foundation board created the D.A. Taylor Memorial Scholarship Fund with The Norfolk Foundation. The Taylor Foundation continues to raise funds for the endowed scholarship at The Norfolk Foundation. Its most recent effort was a Labor Day weekend cookout following the Rock ‘n' Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach where Taylor Foundation members ran the race while wearing shirts honoring D.A.

"With The Norfolk Foundation we got the best of everything in terms of endowment, management and having a professional focused on finding the best scholarship applicants,” says McKnight, managing director of Fortress Investment Group in New York and co-chair of the Taylor Foundation.

This fall the first recipient of the D.A. Taylor Memorial Scholarship – Ricardo Boulware of Chesapeake – enrolled at Virginia Tech as a Spanish major. "The scholarship will help me financially,” says Boulware, a Great Bridge High School graduate. "I am honored to have the support of others outside my family.” Boulware's two-page resume is filled with achievements ranging from senior class president to varsity letters in cross country and tennis and awards for volunteer work and academics.

In the months before he died, D.A. Taylor wrote for a class assignment: "I would like to do something that would leave its mark on the world forever, because I feel that I am special…I am the future.” Fulfilling those words comforts Gale Taylor, who believes that with the scholarship D.A. is making his mark by helping others attend college on scholarship. She is pleased that "something good is coming out of something bad.”

Gifts to the D.A. Taylor Memorial Scholarship can be mailed to The Norfolk Foundation, One Commercial Place, Suite 1410, Norfolk, VA 23510 or made online at https://secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=e35170.

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To learn more about D.A. Taylor and the D.A. Taylor Charitable Foundation visit www.dataylorfoundation.org.