Elizabeth Grace Byrd Memorial Scholarship

A conversation with William A. and Carol T. Byrd.

Why did you choose to create a scholarship at Auburn University?
We lost our daughter Elizabeth in November 2010. Elizabeth had her MCSW, and was a therapist for a rural clinic in Keystone Heights, Fla. She had worked in many areas in the social work field, including administration, but her heart was in counseling those individuals who needed help. She was a dedicated and gifted counselor.

When she died, we were overwhelmed by the response of her clients, both those she was seeing at the time, as well as many, many people she had counseled in the past. We felt that we should do something that would help more young people who have the heart for social work and the desire to help others. Endowing a scholarship in social work seemed to be the perfect memorial for our dear daughter. Elizabeth’s first love was Auburn University. She was an avid and loyal fan. Even though she received her BS degree from the University of Florida, and her MSW from Florida State, she was an Auburn girl through and through, and would definitely have wanted for her scholarship to be given to Auburn students.

What would you want the recipients of this scholarship to know about the person for whom it is named?
I am extremely proud to be an Auburn graduate. I love Auburn University and appreciate so much what Auburn has done for me. To be able to give a scholarship in our daughter’s memory to the university that we both love so much is very humbling; it is a blessing to know that Elizabeth Grace Byrd’s memory will live on at Auburn University, through helping other students like her to fulfill their professional ambitions and their dreams.

Tell us about your Auburn story, favorite tradition, a “War Eagle!” moment, or what Auburn has meant to you.
After having moved all over the country because of my husband’s job transfers, and attending seven colleges and universities in the process, I finally graduated from Auburn—the best university ever! That day was (next to having my children) the most wonderful day of my life! Several years ago, I wrote my Auburn story, “The War Eagle Conversion.” It is about the moment when I became an Auburn fan. Before moving here, I didn’t keep up with college sports at all. When we first came to Alabama and saw those “Punt Bama Punt” signs around Mobile, I had absolutely no idea what they meant but after moving to Auburn, I very soon learned all about that! When I was in school at Auburn, I walked by the coliseum parking lot every day on the way to Haley Center. When football season began, a very strange thing began to happen. Every Friday, the lot would be filled with little trailers, some with little orange and blue awnings…some with five feet tall stuffed tigers next to the door, some with orange and blue balloons hanging all down the front. When I encountered all that, the Friday before the first game, I was just dumbfounded! I couldn’t believe that grown people would do all that—-for a football game?! I just did not get it at all. But, as that season went on…and as I sat at Jordan-Hare every Saturday afternoon, I began to understand it a little bit more each week, until the Auburn-Alabama game finally came around. I went to that game and sat in the upper deck overlooking Legion Field—all of it, a first for me. I was holding my ticket on which my seat was clearly designated, while an usher was helping me find it. For some reason, I missed the correct aisle, and tried to go in another one…but then knew I was wrong, and said as much to the usher. His reply was a very normal one for an Alabama fan. It was neither sarcastic nor rude—just a matter of fact statement. nonchalant, actually. He said, “Oh, that’s right, I forgot that Auburn fans can’t count.” He left and I sat down, and sometime between that moment and the end of that game, I became a very excited, screaming for a win, totally orange and blue Auburn fan! And I also became a seriously loyal fan; I knew that I belonged to Auburn, and too, that I very much resented that Alabama usher’s condescending remark! And since then, everything that I have seen or heard on football weekends at Auburn….on campus or in the stadium…has made perfect sense to me! War Eagle!

What do you hope your recipients gain through this scholarship?
My hope is that this scholarship will somehow help make students’ time at Auburn a little easier for them. I would hope that their knowing Elizabeth’s story would help to inspire them to stick with their studies in social work, knowing that it is a very worthwhile profession.