The 2020 recipient of the Duane Dennie Scholarship is Mary-Frances Mackenzie Ward. This award, launched by Laurens County School District #55 (LCSD 55) in memory of Coach Dennie, provides $600 to a graduating senior student-athlete. Coach Dennie (1953–2017) began his teaching and coaching career in Chester, South Carolina. He later coached at high schools in Kershaw and northeast Columbia, before accepting a position in LCSD 55.
In the latter years of his teaching career, he developed a passion for behavior intervention and being a positive influence in shaping the lives of the young people he served. This scholarship creates a legacy of Dennie’s positive influence on the students of LCSD 55.
Student-athletes who complete an application and write an essay based on the prompt “What are characteristics of an exemplary student athlete, and how do you exemplify those characteristics?” are eligible for the scholarship. Ward, a one-year participant in track and field and basketball, and four-year letter recipient for volleyball, was recognized during the virtual senior award ceremony hosted by Laurens District High School (LDHS) as the first female student-athlete to receive the Duane Dennie Scholarship.
Ward’s essay states, “An exemplary student athlete is defined by more than what is done on the court or field. Off the field, the student-athlete must maintain good grades in the classroom. They must be respectful and a good role model. A student-athlete should be reliable and selfless. Lastly, no matter what, they should always give their best effort every time they compete.”
As president of the National Honor Society at LDHS, Ward has participated in community cleanup efforts, a soup kitchen for Christmas, and Raider Family Fun Nights, and she has donated her time to instructing youth players in association with the local grade school volleyball programs. She has also served as the 12th grade Student Council representative and was a member of the Beta Club, Ladies Club, and the Executive Advisory Council.
Ward has maintained a 3.96 GPA in the classroom and was ranked eighth out of 308 senior students. “As a veteran teacher of twenty-four years, Miss Ward most definitely stood out as one of the best students I have had. She is kind, caring, and mature beyond her years,” said AP Biology teacher Teena Foy-Sullivan.
“Mackenzie is a disciplined athlete,” said Erin Lake, head coach of the LDHS volleyball team. “Physically, she’s quick and can jump; mentally, she’s smart, and had an excellent understanding of the opportunity she had to serve as a great mentor and role model in the volleyball program. She is the athlete everyone wants on their team.”
LCSD 55 funds the scholarship through public donations, which depend upon public generosity. Initial donations to the scholarship have supported recipients for the past three (3) years. In order to continue this scholarship award, LCSD 55 needs to replenish the fund. Contributors can send donations to:
Laurens County School District #55
Attention: Duane Dennie Scholarship Coordinator
301 Hillcrest Dr.
Laurens, SC 29360.