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Late O-W Trustee Rubye Burton Leaves Major Contribution To Endow Scholarship

02/24/2004

DeFUNIAK SPRINGS, FL --- If there was any characteristic that marked Rubye Burton's life, it was determination. Now that same trait will hopefully live on through the future recipients of an endowed scholarship named in Burton's honor.

"Miss Rubye was the epitome of determination," said Teena Wells, a member of the Okaloosa-Walton Community College District Board of Trustees and a longtime friend of Burton, who died last year at the age of 101. "She would want the individual who receives this scholarship to have the same determination toward their education."

In her trust, Burton made a gift of $25,000 to fund the Rubye Burton DeFuniak Springs Garden Club Scholarship Endowment through the OWCC Foundation. Actually, Burton, herself an OWCC trustee from 1973-1977, had been providing partial scholarships annually through the DeFuniak Springs Garden Club. And, even at her "young age", Burton could often be seen trooping around Circle Drive planting flowers.

Wells remembers Burton's personal drive to beautify the grounds around the circular Lake DeFuniak that is surrounded by many vintage homes. "Miss Rubye inspired others and she was always right there working with them," recalled Wells.

A self-proclaimed "Georgia Cracker" by birth, Burton moved to DeFuniak Springs with her then husband who owned the Gulf Oil distributorship. When her husband died in 1924, Miss Rubye approached Gulf Oil about putting the business in her name. "Gulf Oil didn't want to give me the distributorship because I was a woman," wrote Burton in BP's Onsite magazine. But, Burton was determined. She got a young man who was working for her to put it in his name. He did, but within a year Burton's name was on the distributor contract, which eventually led to a dozen service stations owned by Miss Rubye.

Burton was an eyewitness to the growth of Okaloosa-Walton Community College, especially when it opened classrooms in the Chautauqua Neighborhood Center on U.S. 90 West in DeFuniak Springs during the mid-1970s and then was expanded by the college in the early 1990s. "It's been good thing that the college could help the people living up here who just couldn't get to Niceville," she once said.

Dr. Bob Richburg, president of OWCC, said Burton's contribution to the college goes far beyond the trust gift she left the college. "Miss Rubye's service to OWCC never really stopped," said Richburg. "She was one person I could call for advice and she enjoyed our cultural events. I was always pleased when Miss Rubye came to campus for our annual trustee luncheon."

Richburg explained that Burton's service "will live on through the endowed scholarship she has created and through each student who receives her scholarship." He said her "significant donation" will be eligible for state scholarship matching funds, which when fully-funded, will double the size of the Burton trust gift and allow the endowment to assist more students.