Thornton family creates memorial scholarships to honor Squyres, Robertson

A Natchitoches family is honoring two young men by establishing scholarships in their memory at Northwestern State University. David and Jennifer Thornton created the Boaz Barber Squyres Memorial Scholarship to benefit an upper level accounting major and the Joe Robertson Memorial Scholarship to benefit a law enforcement officer, first responder or the immediate family member of a law enforcement or first responder.

The families of both young men met with the Thorntons and the scholarship recipients recently to talk about what the scholarships mean to each of them.

Boaz, son of Merlin and Mary Squyres, was a 2013 graduate of Natchitoches Central High School and was studying accounting at Northwestern State when he passed away from injuries sustained in an accident in 2015 at age 20. David Thornton, a friend of Merlin Squyres, felt moved to do something to honor Boaz.

“It’s a very big honor for them to do this in memory of Boaz,” said his mother Mary Squyres. “We are very grateful to the Thornton family for this. It hurts to think that he didn’t get to finish but it is comforting that other young people will benefit from this scholarship.”

Joe Robertson, son of Richard and Tammy Robertson, was a close friend of Jennifer Thornton growing up in Natchitoches where they attended school and church together. Joe was a Natchitoches City Police Officer when he was killed in an off-duty motorcycle accident in 2005 at age 20. Individuals in 14 states – 21 males and 13 females ranging in age from 17 to 71 — benefited from Robertson’s decision to be an organ donor.

“Joe really wanted to help people,” his mother Tammy Robertson said. “This would make him very happy. Others won’t forget and, in this way, he is continuing to help people. He would be proud to know his name is on a scholarship that will help someone in law enforcement.”

“David and Jennifer established these scholarships in memory of two special individuals,” said Jill Bankston as she introduced the scholarship recipients, Thomas Celles and Jonathan Roberts.

Celles is a junior level accounting major in the Louisiana Scholars’ College. He has held a job throughout his college career, has been involved with several campus organizations and plans to complete an internship in Baton Rouge next semester.

Roberts is pursuing a degree in criminal justice, having returned to NSU as a non-traditional student. He has been employed in law enforcement for 12 years, currently with the Narcotics Task Force of the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office. He is married with two children ages 6 and 2.

“We love Mrs. Mary and Mr. Merlyn and we knew Joe very well. He was very dear to us,” Jennifer Thornton, explaining her and David’s desire to honor the young men. “We wanted to continue Joe’s legacy and remember Boaz because he was in school to be an accountant like his dad.”

The Thorntons have previously created scholarships at NSU in honor of teachers who made an impact in their lives, as well as a scholarship for a student in the School of Creative and Performing Arts.

“This day is special on so many levels, for me personally and for the university,” said NSU President Dr. Chris Maggio. “We are honoring the memory of two fine individuals and their names will be attached to these scholarships in perpetuity. These two students epitomize the ideal recipients. They know the stories behind these awards and why they are important.”

For information on creating a scholarship in honor or in memory of, contacting Director of Development Jill Bankston at (318) 357-4241.

From left are Keith Thompson, Jonathan Roberts, Richard and Tammy Robertson, Jennifer and David Thornton with daughters Tenley and Taelyn Thornton, NSU President Dr. Chris Maggio, Thomas Celles and Mary and Merlin Squyres.