Renee Black and Erica Tollerson

"She will no doubt change many lives"

Education, respect, diligence, and kindness have remained core values in Renée Black’s family throughout the generations.

“My grandmother would always say, ‘Sit straight, respect yourself, seek success, and be kind to others,’’’ laughed Black, “and that has had a huge impact on how I live.”

Those values continue to live on today through the Marie LePrince Farmer Scholarship, which Black established in her paternal grandmother’s memory to help first-generation college graduates and single parents who might otherwise be unable to attend nursing school.

Black, who lives on Kiawah Island, became involved with the MUSC College of Nursing in 2013 at the suggestion of a friend who served on the college’s advisory board. The college’s rankings and five degree programs impressed Black, who is a nurse herself, though she would later make a career in the biotechnology industry.

“Involvement with the college seemed to be an incredible opportunity to help others,” shared Black. In addition to her financial support, Black gave of her time and talents through her service on the college’s advisory board from 2013 to 2017.

Black has met with almost every scholarship recipient since the fund’s creation in 2013, and has come to serve as a resource and mentor to many.

One of those students was Erica Tollerson, who received the Marie LePrince Farmer scholarship at the MUSC College of Nursing in fall 2016.

Renee Black and Erica Tollerson
Renée Black and Erica Tollerson

Tollerson took advantage of Black’s offer to keep in touch and the two met regularly during Tollerson’s time at the college. “I loved that Renée was willing to meet with me and talk. It meant I had someone to get advice from and to share my experiences with who understood because they had walked this same path.”

The two have continued their friendship beyond Tollerson’s graduation, talking regularly on the phone and sharing meals when possible.

Tollerson’s hard work and dedication paid off in 2017 as she graduated and shortly thereafter assumed a position with MUSC Health.  Tollerson attributes her success to her parents and Black, as well as others who supported her throughout the program.

When asked what they each wanted to share with those considering scholarships or donations to the College of Nursing, Tollerson said, “Scholarships give students a sense of balance and instill the truth that we have the resources to achieve our dream.”

Black shared that, “If you are graced with the ability to contribute monetary gifts, you should. Scholarships change lives.” Looking at Tollerson, she added, “And she will no doubt change many lives.”