The History of the Program
The Life-Gets-Better and Thurgood Marshall Programs were conceived and designed by former President Frederick S. Humphries in 1986 “to capture and recruit the best and brightest African American students in partnership with corporate America.” These students were designated as National Achievement, Merit Finalists and Scholars by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. In response to “A Nation at Risk”, he conceived the Life-Gets Better Program (LGB), a unique industry-sponsored, full scholarship program for these students at Florida A&M University majoring in Engineering, Physical, Life, Natural and Computer Sciences and Pre-Law.
The Life-Gets-Better Scholarship program began with scholarships provided to two engineering students by Honeywell, Inc., and General Motors. William C. Brooks, a General Motors’ executive and speaker for the Centennial Spring Commencement Exercises on May 2, 1987, pledged his company to the support of ten “Life-Gets-Better scholars.” Tracy Lawrence, a FAMU High graduate and the first participant in the project with Honeywell, earned $2,000 during her 1987 summer assignment. Increasingly, other corporations bought into Humphries’ Life-Gets-Better concept and provided excellent scholarship packages for outstanding students. Frequently, students received packages which exceeded $65,000 over the four-year period. In 1990-91, there were thirty-nine (39) corporations and ninety (90) LGB scholars at FAMU participating in the program. They brought to the University a total in LGB scholarship funds of $1,700,000. Between 1986 and 1995, FAMU had awarded 353 LGB scholarships. In 1995-96, the Life-Gets-Better and Thurgood Marshall (LGB/TM) programs averaged 130 scholars per year, for a total of 520. By 2000, there was an average of 130 scholars and eighty-nine sponsoring corporations.
Early on, the Life-Gets-Better program underwent a division and evolved into the LGB, Distinguished Scholars Award (DSA), Adopted High School (AHS) and the President Special Scholarship (PSS) programs. These scholarships were established to expand the LGB brand, increase the number of NMSC semifinalists enrolled at FAMU, and to provide a more inclusive and diverse population of scholarship recipients. The majority of these recipients were National Merit Scholarship Corporation designated semifinalists, finalists, scholars, commended scholars, and class valedictorian and salutatorians.
Today, these scholarships have produced thousands of graduates. The quality of FAMU’s scholars may be measured, in part, by the number of recipients of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, Ford Fellowship, David and Lucille Packard Fellowship, McKnight Fellowship, NASA Harriet Jenkins Fellowship, NSF Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, Charles Rangel Fellowship, and Fulbright fellowship, which are awarded in competition with students from leading colleges and universities across the nation. The Wall Street Journal Guide to the Business for Life listed Florida A&M University among the top thirty-three public institutions that feed into the top five Medical, Law and MBA programs. In 2010, The National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering ranked FAMU as the number one institution of origin for African Americans earning Doctorates in Natural Science and Engineering.
These programs are housed under the Division of Student Affairs in the University Scholarship Program office.