Scholarship from the Stacks Former librarian leaves $289,000 to Ohio institution to create fund for students
WILBERFORCE, Ohio — No one on Central State University’s campus here remembers much about Esther Crenshaw Bronston. After all, she retired 32 years ago, and three decades can dim the legacy of a relatively obscure reference librarian.Until now.Central State University officials announced late last month that Bronston, who died in 1998 at age 86, bequeathed $289,000 to the university to create a scholarship fund for students who work in Central State’s library.Dr. John Garland, Central State’s president, says he was stunned — pleased, certainly, but stunned — to learn of the bequest. But it comes as no great surprise to Bronston’s cousin, Dolores Alston of Xenia, Ohio.“She was dedicated to helping her peers and to helping Central State and the people she loved,” Alston says, adding that Bronston also “was very wise in her investments.”Bronston was born in Richmond, Ky., in 1911 and earned a bachelor’s degree from Wilberforce University, Central State’s parent institution. She then went on to earn a master’s degree in library science from the University of Illinois.Central State records show Bronston started working as an assistant librarian at Wilberforce in 1939, prior to Central State’s split from Wilberforce in 1947. Her annual salary when she began her career was $1,200.When she retired from Central State in 1968, her annual salary was $8,430. Relatively late in life, she married Irvin Bronston, who had worked as a butler for a well-to-do family in Springfield, Ohio. The couple had no children, Alston says. Irvin Bronston died several years ago. After retiring from the university, Esther Bronston helped care for her aging mother, who lived into her 90s, Alston says. After her home was destroyed by a tornado in 1974, Bronston purchased a home in Xenia.Carol Garner, who worked in the Central State library with Bronston from 1964 to 1968 and retired in 1986, recalls that Bronston worked closely with all of the student library employees. “She was a wonderful, sweet, sincere person,” Garner says. “It could be that she got very close to the students because she didn’t have any children of her own.”In her will, Bronston left $500 to her church, Zion Baptist in Xenia, and another $500 to a church her father had attended. The rest of her estate went to Central State for “the establishment of a scholarship fund to be known as the Esther Crenshaw Bronston Memorial Scholarship Fund and to be used for providing financial assistance to worthy library student assistants … chosen by the head librarian.”News of the bequest reminded some Central State officials of Oseola McCarty, who died in 1999 after donating her life savings of $150,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi to provide scholarships for needy students.McCarty saved thousands of dollars she earned washing and ironing clothes for others. Central State’s Garland says he had never met Bronston, but called her “a true inspiration.”“This exemplifies the level of commitment our employees have for this institution and its students,” he says. “When you come here, your heart goes out to the young people who go to school here.”Central State officials have not determined the number or amount of scholarships that the fund will generate, Garland says. But he adds that Bronston’s surviving family members “can be assured that we will always strive to make these awards to deserving students who will be a credit to her name.”
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