Sampson helps Eagles soar with $200,000 gift to NCCUBy Joya Wesley, Peacemaker Contributor / May 13, 2016
One of the driving desires of Dr. Myrtle Boykin Sampson’s life has been to provide for students the financial support she would have loved to have had when she finished high school at the top of her class.
Last week, more than 100 of her relatives, friends, colleagues, former students and other loved ones gathered to celebrate the culmination of her lifelong commitment to that goal: a $200,000 gift to endow scholarships at her beloved alma mater, North Carolina Central University in Durham N.C.
The best news was that the lady herself was able to attend the April 26 dedication of a teaching hall named for her in the campus’ Mary Townes Building, despite fears that she would be too ill to do so.
“I was dehydrated the day before and I was afraid I couldn’t make it,” she said in a telephone interview from her home, still sounding jubilant three days later. “They were going to put it on YouTube for me.”
She rallied, however, and the planned Skype link turned out not to be needed.“She arrived looking all spiffy – really, really looking good – and she spoke so well,” said Robert Chiles, a fellow NCCU alum who has shared her commitment since his own graduation in 1956. “I am so pleased that this could happen for her and she could be there to see and hear.”
A founding member of both the Greensboro chapter of the alumni association and the Shepard Society of leadership givers, Dr. Sampson overcame numerous odds to achieve the success that made this gift – along with countless others including a previous one of $22,000 – possible.
Her book, “Crazy Lady: Achievement Against The Odds,” recounts her triumph over challenges ranging from early financial hardship to later mental illness to earn two doctorate degrees, become a Teacher of the Year at North Carolina A&T State University, and create a pioneering psychotherapy practice.
Through it all, Dr. Sampson never forgot where she came from or what it took to succeed. She often tells of how she and her twin sister Bertha Boykin Todd were not able to go to college until two years after they graduated at the top of their high school class near Parkersburg, N.C.: “We had to work.”
Dr. Sampson intends for her gift to make the difference in the financial condition of future students.
“I hope and pray it will,” she said.
Among those attending last week’s dedication were Dr. Sampson’s husband, retired Greensboro pharmacist Dr. Robert Sampson, and longtime friends including Dr. Carolyn Schroeder, Dr. Nellouise Watkins and Dr. Harriet Davis, NCCU’s vice chancellor for advancement.
Also in attendance was her twin, along with daughter Rita Todd. Unable to attend was Dr. Sampson’s handsome nephew, Brian Todd, a Delta Airlines pilot who can be seen at the end of the safety video currently airing on Delta flights. He visited her at Camden Place last month and created quite a stir among the staff.
“After he left for the day they all came into my room asking a whole lot of questions,” she said. “I was so tickled I didn’t know what to do.”
Despite the condition of her physical health, she is feeling very good emotionally.
“This is one of the happiest times I’ve had during my life,” she said. “Realistically, I’ve achieved everything in my life that I wanted to achieve, and I feel at peace.”
It showed last week.
“She was of course sitting there calm and looking all pretty,” Chiles recounted. “She always has been a little soft-spoken giant, I call her.”
She felt so strong she stayed through the entire event and through a reception held afterward at the home of NCCU Chancellor Debra Saunders-White. Chiles was surprised to see her there: “I said, I thought you had gone home. She said ‘No, man — I’m trying to keep up with you!”
Chiles first met Sampson in Charlotte when he joined the NCCU Alumni Association there in the late 50s.
“I met her and became so enthralled and enthusiastic about her philosophy in terms of giving back that it has become a part of my life,” he says.
The two found themselves together again in Greensboro after he moved to town to run the Greensboro National Bank founded by former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Henry Frye and several other A&T Aggies.
In addition to numerous other efforts, the NCCU Alumni Chapter of Greenboro has promoted an annual jazz concert for some 20 years, supporting the university’s internationally renowned jazz program. Sampson has embodied NCCU’s motto, Truth and Service.
“She has given generously to our chapter and supported and promoted all of the projects that we have been a part of, mostly for making scholarships to our students,” Chiles said. “She is really, really a credit to our university.”
“I gave her a tribute at the end (of the dedication), indicating what an inspiration she has been to me and many many others. … She certainly was a good steward of all of the gifts that came to her, and she willingly shared with everyone who came across her path.”
Joya Wesley is a former editor of the Carolina Peacemaker. She now travels the globe as the manager for world renowned trombonist/myscial group Fred Wesley & the New JBs.