Rosie Mae Riley Scholarship

Dana Solatka, Staff Writer

GSU hosted a fundraiser for the Rosie Mae Riley Scholarship (RMRS) in partnership with The Nutman Company from Nov. 19 to Nov. 21. The scholarship’s goal is to provide funds to students in the Theatre and Performance Studies program 


The scholarship program’s curator, Merri Wilkerson, said: “The Nutman Co. is great! They are one of many other companies we’ve collaborated with. 


Wilkerson explained her personal ties to the scholarship: “My mother, Rosie Mae Riley was a sharecropper’s daughter. She and her siblings were forced to drop out of elementary school to assist in the cotton fields, picking cotton to help the family survive.  


She vowed to leave the South when she became an adult and get an education to better her life. Later, her mission was to help bring her parents and all her siblings out of the South. And so, she did.  


“Our home was the hub where family members migrated to, got on their feet, then moved on,” Wilkerson continued. “My mother worked 43 years for the U.S. Government, but was never able to achieve a secondary education. She was taking college courses when her health failed. 


Wilkerson said the performance arts had a major impact on her and her mother’s lives: “Mother was a lover of the arts. She attended theatrical plays with me whenever I invited her. She was here on GSU’s campus quite often. We had tickets to just about every performance. Her passion for the arts spilled over to her grand and greatgrandchildren. 


 “She often insisted they accompany us in a hope to ignite their creative juices and the desire to further their education. Her motto was ‘education is the key to successful living.’” 


“When I lost my mother in July 2017, I thought I would have to retire, because her presence was so prevalent around campus. It was hard for me to focus,” Wilkerson said, “But after discussing the possibility of endowing a scholarship with Jackie Small of the GSU Foundation, I knew this was the answer.  


Wilkerson elaborated on the personal and public importance of the scholarship.  


“A scholarship would allow me to keep my mother’s passion for education and the arts alive,” she said, “while helping others further their educational pursuits. Because of her love and passion for the ARTS, we chose the TAPS (Theatre and Performing Studies) program to write the scholarship for. The RMRS will be the first scholarship for the TAPS program, which is a fairly new program, but rapidly growing and gaining lots of recognition”. 


Wilkerson explained that the scholarship has not been endowed. She said the fund-raising goal is $25,000.  


We’re close to $10K now; we started building two years ago September. We’re depending on creative ideas and supportive friends, family, & colleagues to help raise funds”. Wilkerson said.  “Hopefully, students enrolled in the TAPS program will help spread the word and ask people in their circles to contribute to the scholarship fund. We will offer a book scholarship for fall 2020, in honor of GSU’s 50th anniversary, but regular scholarships will not be offered until the fund has been fully funded.” 


Wilkerson noted an important benefit of partnering with Nutman, “The only upfront costs are promotional materials. They bring a wide variety of delicious products with samples, do the setup, man the station, and send a check to the Foundation for the scholarship once it’s over.  


If you missed the fundraiser and would like to donate to the Rosie Mae Riley Scholarship, visit