Grover and Irma Wright Scholarship Fund Enjoys Growth and a Significant New Gift

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Irma S. Wright continues to devote her energies to growing and sustaining the scholarship fund in support of African American Lutheran students who seek to become rostered professional leaders in the church. The fund is housed at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP).

Irma Wright“I love young people and try to encourage them to want to do something with their life,” Irma Wright said. “This is the fruits of the things that [Grover] used to do and now I’m the one to keep it moving! Thank God I made the right decision!” Her decision was to donate a sustaining gift of $75,000 to establish The Dr. Grover C. and Irma S. Wright Scholarship Fund in the fall of 2010. Her extraordinary gift — the single largest African American Lutheran gift to LTSP in its nearly 150 year history — was made possible by proceeds from the dissolution of the Black Lutheran Community Development Corporation (BLCDC), founded in 1987 by Dr. Grover Wright to provide affordable housing for single-parent families and support such families to become self-sufficient. The organization developed several housing units in Philadelphia. Irma Wright carried on the work of BLCDC after her husband’s death in 1997 until the organization could no longer be sustained. (photo at left: Irma Wright at the signing ceremony eatablishing the scholarship fund)

Today, more than $100,000 has been raised for the fund, according to Yvonne Lembo, the first recipient of the scholarship in her third year of the Master of Divinity degree program at LTSP and a philanthropic advisor with the LTSP Office for Philanthropy who plays a key role in administering and attracting support for the fund. 

The Rev. P. Richard and Nancy GroveRecent fund growth is thanks in part to a $13,000 gift from the Rev. P. Richard and Nancy Grove of Philadelphia, designed to provide a full scholarship for an African American seminarian during the 2012-2013 academic year. Grove, a 1964 LTSP graduate, served as pastor at Christ Lutheran Church, 30th and Diamond Streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for several years in the late 1960s. Grove went on to become coordinator of the Northwest Philadelphia Lutheran Parish, modeled after a similar collaborative Lutheran Church initiative in Center City. The Groves, now retired, live in Center City Philadelphia where Richard Grove serves one afternoon a week as a docent for the National Constitution Center.

“Grover and Irma were devoted members of the Christ Church congregation,” Grove recalled. “He was a Pullman railroad porter and at the church was a Boy Scout leader with many young men in the community involved in Scouting. I was really impressed with his leadership qualities, and so I worked to recruit Grover to become a community organizer and outreach leader for Christ Church. At the time, he was beginning to think that his future in railroading was limited, and so was pleased at the church leadership opportunity. Irma was involved in many activities at the church, and both were a great support to me as a young pastor. So when the Scholarship Fund was started, we saw it as a great way to honor the Wrights’ legacy by providing financial support to an African American student.” For several years, the Groves have also furnished scholarship aid to assist married seminarians with children.

Grover Wright went on from his work at 30th and Diamond to become associate director for leadership development for the Lutheran Church in America’s Division for Professional Leadership, which was seeking to recruit talented African Americans to become pastors in the church.

Irma Wright was constantly at his side, also serving as a teacher and mentor and providing administrative support and advice. In addition to serving as president of BLCDC, she worked with the Urban League, first as a volunteer and then as an employed administrator, ordering and keeping track of supplies, and tracking income and expenses, among other responsibilities.” Today, she remains active as a pivotal member of Christ Church and stays close to the pulse of the Scholarship Fund, regularly sending handwritten notes of appreciation to donors, including Dick and Nancy Grove!

The Grover and Irma Wright Scholarship Fund remains open for donations. The 2012-2013 fundraising goal is to match the Groves’ $13,000 gift with new gifts and pledged support for the Fund.

For more information, or to make a gift or pledge visit, or contact Yvonne Lembo at 215.248.6318 or