Laurence Wynder of Natchitoches is the inaugural recipient of the Mary Ann Lyles Memorial Scholarship, created to benefit a student pursuing a career in business administration or nursing at Northwestern State University or Bossier Parish Community College (BPCC) – Natchitoches campus. Wynder earned a bachelor’s degree in general studies at NSU in 2020 and is currently pursuing an associate’s degree in practical nursing at BPCC.
The Mary Ann Lyles Memorial Scholarship was created by her sister and caregiver Bertha Davis. Lyles passed away February 19, 2016.
Davis said she initiated the scholarship because Lyles always encouraged children to get their education, whether college or trade school. Lyles was a 1967 business administration graduate of Central Area Trade School.
She was well-known in her community and, not having children of her own, treated other children like they were her own. She was a collector of books, dishware and glassware, and after her death, Davis sought to donate as much as she could of Lyles’ collection to area philanthropies and non-profits, including the Creole Heritage Center (CHC) at NSU.
“My sister always worked in service to people, and she wanted to see children get an education,’ Davis said. “She had a lovely personality and was a people person.”
Davis said the ideal scholarship recipient would be a student with strong academic achievement and who is in need of financial help.
Loletta Wynder, retired director of the CHC and grandmother of the scholarship recipient, said she met Lyles in 1970 when they were among the first minorities to be employed at the Natchitoches Parish Old Courthouse.
“At one time, Ann was employed at NSU in the Scholarship Office. It is ironic that now there is a scholarship in her name,” Loletta Wynder said. “Ann would be smiling now.”