Asbury siblings poses for a photo

Scholarship Fund Creates Legacy of Learning

Asbury family helps Concord students reach college dreams

Beatrice and Charles Asbury both valued education, although financial circumstances prevented either from finishing high school. Determined to create a better life for their children, the Asburys instilled a love of learning – which paid off with all seven children not just graduating high school but attending college.

The lesson that education is not a guarantee has not been forgotten by the Asbury siblings. To honor their parents, Beatrice and Charles’ children created an annual scholarship in 2010 to help Concord High School students achieve their own dreams. The scholarship fund is held at Foundation For The Carolinas and is one of more than 150 that the Foundation manages.

“We started the scholarship in memory of our parents, specifically our mother, who promoted higher education all of our lives,” said Dr. Josephine Chargois, who, at 80, is the oldest living Asbury sibling. Dr. Charles Asbury Jr., who died in 2017, was the oldest child. Margaret died in 2016 and Bill died in July 2021. The other children are John, Robert and Melvin Asbury.

“Both (of our parents) were in favor of higher education. They weren’t able to go to college, but it was very important to them that all of us – all seven of us – go to college. And we did. Education is so important, and it can never be taken away from you.”

The Asbury Scholarship Fund provides recipients with $1,000 each year for four years. Each of the Asbury siblings contributes to the fund annually. Eligible applicants must be an African American senior at Concord High School, demonstrate high academic merit, be a resident of Concord and plan to attend a four-year college.

Family First

Although the Asbury parents highly valued education, their family circumstances were so fragile that neither of them were able to finish school.

Beatrice was born in Macon, Ga., and moved to Charlotte when she was 12 to live with her uncle after her mother died. Her siblings were sent to live with relatives in other states. “They were split up, and I don’t know how they determined where they would go,” Chargois said.

A few years after moving to North Carolina, Beatrice’s uncle required her to work to help support the family. “So, her education was cut short,” said Chargois.

Her parents were both good students. Charles was good at math, while Beatrice excelled in English. “She was an avid reader,” Chargois said. “When I was in school, she would help me with my English. When I was in the upper grades, she was very interested in my reading assignments. I would read poems to her. She really enjoyed it.”

Charles Sr. was raised on a farm in Cabarrus County. After his father died, Charles became one of the primary providers for his family, which included four siblings, so he, too, was unable to finish high school.

Beatrice and Charles Sr. married when she was 20 and he was 25. She worked as a seamstress, and he was a sexton at a large church in a white community in Concord. He oversaw the maintenance of the church and surrounding property. He also worked other part-time jobs to supplement his income.

“Both of my parents were very bright and intelligent people,” Chargois said. “They both always wanted to go to college but never had the funds, opportunity or support they would have needed to do that.”

That’s why the Asbury Scholarship Fund is so important to the Asbury family. “They knew that a good education was key to having a good life,” said Melvin Asbury, who at 69 is the youngest sibling. “Education was instilled in us as children by our parents, and they emphasized superior academic achievement.”

The Asbury children were all good in school. Dr. Chargrois’ favorite subject was English, which is what she eventually studied in college. Six of the siblings graduated from Logan High School in Concord, when the school system was segregated. Melvin graduated from Concord High School after the schools were desegregated.

Chargois, who graduated from high school in 1956, remembers the days of segregated Concord with new eyes now. “As I look back on it, I didn’t realize it was as depressing as I now see it,” she said. “We had very few opportunities. We couldn’t even go to the public library. Everything was separate.”

Melvin said living in Concord during segregation was almost like being “blissfully ignorant.” It wasn’t until he attended Concord High School, the white school, that he recognized the difference between the lack of resources that the Black school had verses the wealth of resources at the white school.

“We stayed in our world and didn’t realize how much discrimination really existed in society,” Melvin said.

College Bound

The Asbury children fulfilled their parents’ dream and all attended college. Chargois was valedictorian of her graduating class at Logan High School. She received her bachelor’s degree in English from Barber Scotia College in Concord, her master’s degree in English from Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., and a Ph.D. in comparative literature.

The oldest, Charles, earned his Ph.D. in Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In all, six of the Asbury children earned graduate degrees.

Chargois went on to teach English at Bennett College, Texas Southern University in Houston and the University of Maryland at College Park. She then went on to lead the Business Communications program at Howard University and became that school’s chair of the Department of General Services and Development, and then associate dean of the Howard University School of Business.

Melvin, who enjoyed earth science and psychology in high school, earned a degree in Business Administration from North Carolina Central University and earned a master’s degree from Purdue University.

The legacy of Beatrice and Charles extends even to the next generation of Asburys. All the children of the seven siblings have attended college, earning degrees in law, business, medicine, teaching and other fields. Chargois’ son has a management position with the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. Melvin has two daughters – one is a psychiatrist and the other is a chemist.

“My parents would be very proud of all of their grandchildren and their accomplishments,” Chargois said. “They have made the most of the education opportunities that my parents were denied.”

Giving Back

A senior nursing major at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Diamonn Josey, 23, is a first-generation college student who was able to attend college thanks, in part, to the Asbury Scholarship Fund.

She said she wants to help people and give back to her community. During high school, she shadowed several doctors and nurses. That’s when she decided that she wanted to work in the medical field.

Diamonn Josey

Diamonn Josey

“When my mother got sick a few years ago, I became very close to the nurses,” Josey said. “I saw how well they cared for her and instantly knew I wanted to do the same for others. I vowed to take care of my future patients just as the nurses took care of my mother.”

Diamonn plans to earn a master’s degree in nursing and become a nurse practitioner or Certified Registered Nursing Anesthetist.

“I want to thank the Asbury family for their contribution towards my education and my future,” she said. “They have helped me turn my dreams into reality and reach my full academic potential.”

Dajah Lisbon

Dajah Lisbon

A senior at Johnson C. Smith University, Dajah Lisbon, 22, majors in criminology and minors in pre-law studies. Lisbon, who also received a scholarship from the fund, plans to earn her law degree and work as an attorney to help people with their legal struggles. Currently Dajah works as a victim assistant court advocate intern.

She enjoys providing helpful information to victims of crime and working as an advocate, but the help she can provide them is limited. “I know getting my law degree and becoming an attorney is the only way to help victims thoroughly,” she said.  “I think the Asbury Scholarship is a blessing from the skies. I believe what they are doing is truly incredible and generous. They are helping students succeed without the financial stress.”

Every degree earned is a reminder of what Beatrice and Charles instilled in their children. For his part, Melvin hopes the lessons his parents taught their children – study hard and give back when you can – lives on through all who receive help from the fund.

“I hope the Asbury Scholarship will encourage the recipients to study hard and someday be in a position to help others coming behind them,” Melvin said. “I’m very proud of what my family has been able to accomplish in just one generation. I hope others are helped and motivated to do the same by creating such a fund in the future.”

Alicia Benjamin is a freelance writer, editor and podcaster. She's currently producing a podcast about Black women in film.