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New Catawba Scholarship Is Both a Nod to One Family's History and a Leg Up for Future Students

July 14, 2008

Category: Academics, Gifts, Theatre Arts

Florence Busby CorriherFrances Bradsher Busby of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is paying tribute to her family's involvement with Catawba College through a new First Family Scholarship she has established at the institution.

The Florence Busby Corriher First Family Scholarship is established in memory of Mrs. Busby's late mother-in-law, the former director of dramatics at Catawba and founder of Catawba's Blue Masque. Preference for this scholarship will be given to students majoring in theatre arts.

Born in Salisbury, Frances Bradsher Busby attended Catawba as a day student between 1942 and 1944. Although Florence Busby Corriher was a member of the faculty during that time, Mrs. Busby did not study under her. Mrs. Busby says that instead, she filled two other important roles in Florence Busby Corriher's personal life: she married Florence Busby Corriher's middle son, Philip Busby; and she introduced Florence Busby Corriher's third son to the woman he married.

Mrs. Busby describes her late mother-in-law like this: "She was a perfectionist and very strong on that. If the students would come to the plays without their property, she would give them grief. The Catawba performances were so popular that all of Salisbury came to see them.

"She (Florence Busby Corriher) was about five feet tall with a rounded shape, you might say, In order to increase her presence, she took small steps and walked fast. She had two distinctive outfits, one dark brown, and the other black, and she had dark hair and dark eyes and wore her hair on top of her head in ringlets. She was definitely an actress and my husband definitely inherited that from her."

Mrs. Busby recalls that Florence Fransioli Busby Corriher was originally from Memphis, Tenn., where her father ran the Fransioli Hotel there (later the Peabody Hotel) around the turn of the century. Florence Fransioli's mother made sure that she was sent to all sorts of lessons while she was growing up, including acting and voice lessons. When it came time for Florence to go to college, she chose to attend Emerson College of Oratory in Boston, Mass., which was known for its strong theatre arts program.

While at Emerson, Florence Fransioli had two life-changingEvents occur: her parents died before her graduation in 1916, and she met her future husband, John Busby, who was a student at Harvard Law School. After she graduated, Florence went to work on Broadway and John Busby returned to Salisbury where he opened a law practice. John Busby suspended his law career to serve in the U.S. Army in France during World War I (February 1918 until April 1919).

When he returned from the War, his friendship with Florence Fransioli continued to evolve. He visited her backstage on Broadway during a performance where she acted under the name of Jane Kavanaugh. When an actors' strike closed theatres in New York, Florence Fransioli and John Busby seized the opportunity and were married in July of 1919. Thereafter, they came to Salisbury and began their married life together.

John Busby resumed work at his law practice, and in 1920 and in 1922, the couple's first two sons, John, Jr. and Philip, were born. Florence Fransioli Busby began work in 1925 in Catawba's fledgling theatre arts program. The couple's third son, Christopher was born in 1929. Then, in 1933 at the age of 39, John Busby died of influenza and pneumonia, leaving Florence a widow with three sons.

Florence Busby continued in her role at Catawba until 1948 when she resigned and married Lotan A. Corriher of Landis, N.C., a prominent textile manufacturer and longtime trustee and benefactor of Catawba College. She died in 1979.

Mrs. Busby says of the Catawba scholarship she established in memory of her mother-in-law: "She was Philip's mother and our families both originated in Salisbury. I felt like the scholarship would offer the most talented theatre students some help and our involvement with Catawba has been mostly in that area. Florence Busby Corriher has already established her reputation there (at Catawba) and one can only enhance it.

"This scholarship speaks to how involved our family was at Catawba with Florence Busby as our founding matriarch, and it speaks to how appreciative and hopeful we are for Catawba's future," Mrs. Busby notes.

Catawba College's Theatre Arts Department continues to be nationally ranked. It was rated fourth in the nation for best college theatre, according to the 2008 edition of The Princeton Review's "Best 366 Colleges" guide which hit bookstands in late August of 2007. Leading Catawba in the Princeton Review's top three rankings for best college theatre were Yale University (Connecticut), first; Wagner College (New York), second; and Emerson College (Mrs. Busby Corriher's alma mater in Massachusetts), third.

After spending two years as a student at Catawba, Mrs. Busby's transferred to Duke University's School of Nursing where she graduated in 1947. Although she is not a Catawba alumna, two of her siblings, both now deceased, were. Mrs. Busby's half-brother, Allen Dobey, graduated in 1930 from Catawba, while her sister, Nancy Bradsher Hamilton, graduated in 1950.

Mrs. Busby has fond memories of her time at Catawba. "I enjoyed my professors at Catawba, especially Dr. Raymond Jenkins," she remembers. "The government actually paid for me to go to nursing school at Duke and when I told Dr. Jenkins that I was transferring there and that I had to take a psychometric exam, he laughed. He thought that was the funniest name for an exam. He was a delight. I did typing for him at Catawba – it was a little part-time job.

"I had Dr. Faust for a religion professor and once I skipped his class to study for an exam in another subject," Mrs. Busby continues. "He found out about it and told me: ‘You're robbing Peter to pay Paul,' and that comment seared my soul."

Mrs. Busby only practiced nursing for a short time after her marriage until her children began arriving and she felt she needed to stay at home and manage things for the family.

Her husband Philip, who like his father graduated from Harvard, enjoyed a long and successful career in shipping until his death in November 2006. One of his first jobs was for McLean Trucking Company in Winston-Salem. As a young, new employee and while a newlywed, he was moved around quite a bit to learn that business.

"Mr. McLean was known for selecting very bright, hungry men to work for him," Mrs. Busby recalls. "Philip served in many positions in that company. One of those positions was to negotiate labor contracts and he was a wonderful negotiator. He inherited many of those qualities that came in handy in his work from his mother."

It was while Philip Busby and his family were living in Atlanta that the company owner, Malcom McLean tapped him for a new venture; he wanted Philip Busby to work for him at a newly acquired company, Waterman Steamship, to develop a containerization program for shipping. That company eventually became Sea Land, and Philip Busby held many positions in it before developing a specialty for containerized shipping in the Caribbean and Central America. In his later years, Philip Busby started two different companies that specialize in containerized shipping in the Caribbean and Central America, Transportation Services Inc. and Carrier Equipment Inc. One of his sons, Byron, runs those companies today.

Today, the Busbys' family history, which spanned 59 years of marriage, continues through their four children, Philip Fransioli Busby Jr. of Apex, N.C., Byron Allen Busby of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Spencer Shuford Busby of San Diego, Calif., and Bonnie Frances Busby also of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; eleven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

"The Busby and Bradsher families have a long legacy at Catawba College and this new scholarship established in memory of Mrs. Florence Busby Corriher is one way to assure that that legacy is remembered," remarked Tom Childress, Catawba Senior Vice President. "I commend Frances Busby for establishing this new scholarship. It is both a way to pay tribute to her family's past at Catawba and to assist future Catawba students who want to pursue a career in theatre."