Southern Scholarship Foundation began in the years following World War II, when tens of thousands of young men returned home from military service and took advantage of the G.I. Bill to attend college. By 1950, the nation's college and university system had rapidly expanded to accommodate the influx of students.
Dr. Mode L. Stone, a native of Blountstown, Florida, and a professor in the College of Education at Florida State University, saw that many bright and accomplished high school graduates did not consider college an option because they simply did not have the money. Even if they received tuition scholarships, they could not afford room and board. In the spring of 1953, Dr. Stone was invited to deliver the commencement address at the high schools in Altha and Blountstown, Florida. While there he met the valedictorian from each school, Enoch Hanna and Jimmy Geoghagen. These students told Dr. Stone that they wanted to attend Florida State University, but had no money for housing.
Later in the spring, these two young men - who were to become the first Southern Scholarship students - went to Dr. Stone's office asking for his help in figuring out a way for them to attend college, in spite of less than two hundred dollars between them. Typical of Dr. Stone, he agreed to help and invited them to spend the night with his family on Jefferson Street. During the night, Dr. Stone began to think that by providing housing at no cost and allowing the students to pool their money and work together, enough savings could be realized to make a college education possible. He immediately made an appointment with the FSU Registrar to get the boys enrolled. He then obtained permission for the boys to move into an abandoned barracks at Dale Mabry Field and arranged with local business leaders to donate furnishings and appliances.
Word quickly spread and by the end of the semester, eleven young men were sharing the new cooperative living arrangement in the barracks. Dr. Stone, along with professors Dr. Sam T. Lastinger, Dr. Marion Hay, Dr. Hazen Curtis, former Dean of Education, Ralph Eyman and prominent Tallahassee attorney J. Velma Keen, further developed this unique concept to help capable, motivated, and financially needy young people gain access to higher education. Their idea was to build and purchase houses and to offer deserving students scholarships in the form of rent-free housing. Southern Scholarship Foundation (SSF), officially incorporated on April 13, 1955, is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation and is not a part of the state university system. Since day one all funds required to establish, maintain and repair the houses, and operate the Foundation have come from individuals, civic groups, charitable foundations, corporations and alumni. The Southern Scholarship Foundation has never received any funding from the state or federal government. The annual budget is now more than a million dollars a year.
The founders purchased the first house in March of 1955. Since those early days, the program has grown steadily, benefited, especially in the early stages, by major contributions from the William and Marie Selby Foundation in Sarasota. Over the years a number of civic groups have contributed to the success of SSF, including Rotary, Pilot, Lions and Kiwanis Clubs, Alpha Delta Kappa, Business & Professional Women of Florida and Florida Retail Federation. Also, a number of generous individuals and families have donated or built houses for which they are named. The Badcock Corporation has donated over a million dollars worth of furniture over the years to furnish the houses.
Today the Foundation owns and/or operates a total of twenty-seven scholarship houses; fourteen at Florida State University and three at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, nine at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and one at Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers. We are currently housing over 458 students and have assisted more than 8,000 deserving students over the past half century.