Black Alumni of Notre Dame expands scope of Frazier Thompson Scholarship

Author: Dennis Brown

With the support of longtime University of Notre Dame President Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., the Black Alumni of Notre Dame (BA of ND) was founded in May 1987, during the first Black Alumni Reunion, with the mission to enhance the presence and experiences of African Americans across the Notre Dame family.

Soon thereafter, the BA of ND established the Frazier Thompson Scholarship, a financial aid fund named in honor of the University’s first Black graduate. 

Now, the Frazier Thompson Scholarship has been broadened to provide grants in seven categories to undergraduate, graduate and professional students who have helped achieve the fund’s primary goal of enhancing the experience of Black students.

“I applaud this visionary initiative by the Black Alumni of Notre Dame, a group that for more than 30 years has been instrumental in helping the University live up to its aspirations around diversity and inclusion,” Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., said. “Expanding the scope of this scholarship recognizes the many dimensions of the student experience and will help us ensure that students at Notre Dame have access to the resources they need to pursue their interest in the African diaspora and to truly flourish.”

Under the direction of Multicultural Student Programs and Services with input from the BA of ND and the Office of Financial Aid, the scholarship fund will now provide grants to students who demonstrate interest in and support for the African diaspora through activities that are “intellectually, socially and spiritually fruitful.”

The seven categories for which students can receive a monetary award are:

  • Study abroad — To increase enrollment in Notre Dame-affiliated as well as third-party study abroad opportunities. 
  • Undergraduate and graduate research — To foster research by undergraduate and graduate students.
  • Professional development assistance — To provide financial assistance for professional development, such as attending conferences, preparing for standardized tests and graduate and professional school application fees.
  • Family assistance — To assist students with demonstrated financial need.
  • Diversity Exemplar Scholarship — A merit-based service and leadership scholarship for junior and senior students to recognize and support key leaders working to empower, serve and lead African American communities.
  • Community Empowerment Scholarship — A one-year award to junior and senior students for the purpose of reducing the loan or work-study component of a recipient’s financial aid package.
  • Merit Scholars Program — A four-year scholarship for incoming first-year students recognized for their outstanding leadership and service to Africana communities (African, African American and African diasporic).

Information on the application process and criteria for each award is here.

The Frazier Thompson Scholarship has provided more than $660,000 to 395 students over the past 34 years, primarily through contributions from Black alumni of the University.

Separately, the Notre Dame Monogram Club recently established an award in Thompson’s name to recognize outstanding contributions to diversity and inclusion from club members and others in the Notre Dame community.

Born in Philadelphia, Thompson first came to Notre Dame through the U.S. Navy’s V-12 training program during World War II. After 22 months of military service, he enrolled as a full-time student at the University and became its first Black graduate in 1947. A sprinter on the track and field team, he also was the first Black athlete to earn a Notre Dame monogram. He worked for NASA and the U.S. Postal Service and died in 1991.

Thompson is on the University’s Wall of Honor as one of the three graduates who represent the first generation of Black students at Notre Dame.

Beginning with the creation of the Black Alumni of Notre Dame, affinity groups have provided alumni and friends with the opportunity to connect around their shared identities. Since that time, the Notre Dame Alumni Association’s affinity groups programs have expanded to also include alumnae, young alumni and senior alumni, as well as the Diversity Council, and the Asian-Pacific, Hispanic and Native American Notre Dame communities.

Originally published by Dennis Brown at on April 08, 2021.