TROY names first recipient of James F. Rinehart Memorial Scholarship

Dr. James Rinehart served TROY for 20 years and was Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences before his passing in 2015.

Dr. James Rinehart served TROY for 20 years and was Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences before his passing in 2015.

Named in memory of the late Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the first recipient of the James F. Rinehart Memorial Scholarship has been announced. 

Laura Grace Dennis, a graduate student in the Applied Mathematical Science Graduate Program from Prattville, Ala., graduated from TROY with her bachelor’s degree in secondary math education in 2022. The summer after graduating, she enrolled in the online graduate program before starting her career as a math teacher at Wetumpka High School where she also serves as the junior varsity dance coach.

Dennis said she knew from a young age she wanted to be a teacher, but never anticipated she’d be a math teacher.

“Both my parents work in the educational system and both my grandmothers were teachers. I can remember doing the career days as a kid and I would dress up like my mom,” she said. “I have always admired them and wanted to be like them. I would even make my mom buy teacher supplies from Dollar Tree so I could pretend I was a real teacher and would pay my brothers to be my students for the day. 

“I had never really considered teaching math because I never actually liked math until I got to high school. That’s when I realized it’s just a big puzzle and it’s actually kind of fun. I had some really great math teachers, and I discovered I was pretty good at helping other students.”

As an undergraduate, Dennis worked for three years at the Troy University Natural Science Center as a math tutor while also assisting in the remedial math classes. She said it was during these classes she realized she wanted to teach at the college level one day.

“Working with these students and watching their excitement as they started to understand the concepts is what furthered my desire to share my love and knowledge of math,” she said. “The investment of my TROY professors led me to the decision to continue my education at the master’s level.”

Dr. James F. Rinehart joined the Troy University faculty in 1995 as Director of the International Relations Graduate Program at the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Troy University, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, before relocating to the Troy Campus in 2001 when he became Chair of the Political Science Department. In 2008, he was promoted to Associate Dean of the CAS before being named Dean in 2012.

Rinehart passed in May 2015, and faculty in the CAS began preparing for a scholarship in his honor. The James F. Rinehart Memorial Scholarship was designed to benefit students exactly like Dennis, said Dr. Steven Taylor, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“We wanted to honor his legacy,” Taylor said. “He was passionate about learning and teaching and engaging his students. He dedicated a lifetime to his research. We wanted his memory to live on at Troy University by assisting students in pursuit of that same dream.”

The scholarship will be awarded on an annual basis to a graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences. To apply, students must have a 3.0 GPA and write a two to three-page essay on why they are seeking a master’s degree and what they hope to accomplish with their education. Selection of recipient will be made by the College of Arts & Sciences scholarship committee.

“After completing my master’s degree, my ultimate goal is to get a doctorate in mathematics education. I believe the knowledge I am learning in my master’s program is preparing me to be able to pursue this degree,” Dennis said. “As I reflect on my student experience at Troy University, I have many emotions; the greatest of which is gratitude. I am so thankful and blessed to have the opportunity to learn and develop my mathematical skills with the amazing professors.

“My Troy University experience has taught me to be a leader who is honest, humble, patient, fair, and one who responds with kindness. I have also developed abilities to communicate, plan, organize, and collaborate, all of which are essential qualities needed as an effective educator.”

To give a gift to the James F. Rinehart Memorial Scholarship, contact the Office of Development at 334-670-3608 or visit the website.