Dunbar Scholarship Anniversary

Celebrating 25 years of giving support, hope to nontraditional students

By Laura Braddick

James L. Dunbar Jr., known as J. to his friends and family, did not have what’s considered traditional college career.  

Instead, he went straight to work in his family’s business, Dunbar Armored founded in 1956 by his father and the largest independent armored transportation company in the U.S. before being acquired by Brinks Security in 2018. Wanting to earn his business degree, J. came to Towson University at 36 to pursue his education while working full time 

James L. Dunbar Sr. and his wife Gwenyth Dunbar
Mr. & Mrs. James L. Dunbar Sr. founded two scholarships at Towson University in honor of their son, J.

Three years into his education, he was diagnosed with pancreatic enzyme deficiency. While pressing on with both his career and college, he was hospitalized and diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Shortly after becoming aware of J.’s illness, the College of Business Economics presented him with his degree, which he earned cum laude.  

The following year, J.’s parents, James L. Dunbar Sr. and Gwenyth Dunbar, established a scholarship fund in his memory to support nontraditional undergraduate marketing majors aged 22 or older in their junior or senior year within CBE. 

For the past 25 years, this scholarship fund has helped 114 nontraditional students pursue their education.  

Dunbar Scholar Linda Smiles 19, said the scholarship helped alleviate financial burdens and helped her focus on her studies. 


“This scholarship not only gave me a sense of pride, but it also reminded me that I am not alone.” 

The financial help allowed me to focus on what matters, raising my son and setting an example for him. Making him proud is something that financial setbacks can make truly difficult,” she says. 

But beyond helping with costs, the special story and focus of this unique award has made an even deeper impact.

Mrs. Dunbar stands with past winners of the dunbar scholarship
Before passing away in 2018, Mrs. Dunbar would host a luncheon for scholarship recipients each year to meet them.

The stigma and perception of an older student is one that I struggled with as well as the difficulty of fitting in with the younger students who haven’t faced the struggles or who don’t share the same world view as nontraditional students,” Smiles says. “This scholarship not only gave me a sense of pride, but it also reminded me that I am not alone.” 

Fellow Dunbar Scholar Carmen Gilliam echoed this feeling. 

The scholarship made a difference to me because it let me know that I wasn’t on this journey to a degree alone,” she says. “It felt great to know that there was something out there for marketing students over the age of 22.” 

The scholarship is more than just an award. It created a community. Each year before her death in 2018Gwenyth Dunbar shared lunch with all of the year’s recipients, who have built their own community.  

group pictures of recent dunbar recipients
Kathy Ramsdell, daughter of James L. and Gwenyth Dunbar, carries on the tradition of her mother celebrating each year’s scholarship cohort with a luncheon.

The Dunbar family’s impact is not limited to the marketing department. In 2000, the family founded a fund to support students 25 years and older in the Department of Music. That scholarship has supported 15 students over its 20 years. And J.’s sister Kathy Ramsdell has built on this legacy by establishing a new fund in 2019 in honor of her mother GwenythAltogether there are 135 former and current Dunbar Scholars—carrying on the memory and spirit of a hard-working, young businessman.