The 34th Annual Wilbur Ray Scholarship Dinner honored six individuals and organizations at its scholarship dinner on April 5.  The event recalled the memory and example of Sergeant Wilbur Ray, a longtime member of the Brookdale Community College Police Force.

The devoted husband and father made an impact through numerous charitable and philanthropic activities in his Long Branch community. His legacy continues to this day as the Wilbur Ray Committee awards scholarships to Monmouth County students of color who are attending or will attend Brookdale Community College upon high school graduation. The Wilbur Ray Committee acknowledged the four recipients of the 2018-2019 scholarships at the event.

In opening, Brookdale President Dr. David Stout thanked the Ray family on behalf of all scholarship recipients for their ongoing generosity. He congratulated all the evening’s honorees for improving the lives of countless others in their respective communities.

In her remarks, keynote speaker Gilda Rogers discussed the importance and value of service in everyday life and its effect on community. The journalist and author quoted Jackie Robinson who said: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Rogers then traced the career of T. Thomas Fortune, a journalist and social justice trailblazer. She urged all to be driven to make the world a better place.

Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas Arnone and Freehold Borough Mayor Nolan Higgins also delivered remarks. Both said the Wilbur Ray Scholarships have aided numerous students in attaining their goals and by extension benefitted their families and local communities.

The evening honorees included:

The Deacons’ Union & Women’s Auxiliary of Monmouth & Adjacent Counties

The Deacons’ Union and Women’s Auxiliary of Monmouth and Adjacent Counties have served their communities for more than half a century. The organizations continue to operate the Monmouth Bible Institute, provide a broad range of support services throughout the area and promote fellowship among Baptist churches.

T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center (Red Bank, NJ)

The T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center will open in 2019 as a community space. The T. Thomas Fortune Foundation worked diligently since 2008 to save this historic landmark in Red Bank, N.J., and the former home of the civil rights advocate from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Ms. Lillie Ham-Hendry, Court Street School Education Community Center (Freehold, NJ)

Ms. Lillie Ham-Hendry, a devoted educator and community service worker, is president emeritus of the Court Street School Community Center in Freehold, N.J. The lifelong Freehold Borough resident was one of only two teachers from New Jersey selected as a Senator Fulbright cultural exchange teacher. She is a life member of the NAACP’s Freehold chapter and an active member of Bethel AME Church.

Mr. Marvin Harris, former President of Freehold Rotary

Marvin Harris, businessman and community activist, founded Harris Pharmacy in Freehold, N.J. He is well known for his dedication and service to the community.  Harris served on the Downtown Freehold Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Committee for the Borough of Freehold and in several roles, including president, of the Freehold Rotary Club.

Sergeant Eduardo Santana, Freehold Borough Police

Sergeant Edward Santana has risen through the ranks of the Freehold Police Department, attaining his current rank in 2015. With his wife, Maribel Santana, the couple founded the House of Peace. The ministry assists those in need such as troubled teens, the mentally challenged, couples experiencing marriage difficulties – all while educating others about the gospel.

Rev. Ronald Sparks, Pastor, Bethel AME

Rev. Ronald L. Sparks, pastor of Bethel AME Church in Freehold N.J. Bethel celebrated its 170th Anniversary in 2019. Rev. Sparks is a member of the Freehold Clergy Association and the NJ Black Multi-Faith Alliance.  Rev. Sparks, along with other faith and community leaders, was instrumental in reestablishing the Freehold Chapter of the NAACP.

For more information about the Wilbur Ray Scholarship Program, visit