As former running back for Ohio State University and the Chicago Bears, Robert "Bobby" Watkins, Jr. had a knack for finding the end zone. Today, Bobby helps UMass Dartmouth students reach for a different goal line through the Bobby and Rillis Watkins Scholarship Fund. Established in 2007, the scholarship fund helps support students who participated in high school football receive an education at UMass Dartmouth.
"I love football and realize it provided me with the opportunity to get a great education. But not everyone can play at the most competitive levels, so I wanted to establish a scholarship that allows students who enjoyed the game as much as I did, to get an education that will prepare them for the future, regardless of their on-field ability," says Mr. Watkins.
A New Bedford native, Mr. Watkins was one of the first African Americans to play for both Ohio State and the Chicago Bears. After football, Mr. Watkins used his education to become the Vice President of Marketing and Sales for John E. Seagram and Sons. Although Mr. Watkins lived in New York City and Chicago for most of his career, he decided to move back to the New Bedford area when he retired in 2000.
Since then, Mr. Watkins has been involved with UMass Dartmouth through various volunteer opportunities including Chair of the UMass Dartmouth Blue Ribbon Commission on Athletics and recently as a member of the Board of Directors for the UMass Dartmouth Foundation. Throughout the years, Mr. Watkins has spoken fondly of the opportunities provided by a UMass Dartmouth education, "As costs continue to escalate, students will really have a hard time paying for education. Through scholarships, students can obtain a golden opportunity to change their future and be as good as they possibly can."
Although Mr. Watkins' on-field achievements are notable (including a Rose Bowl win for the 1954 unbeaten Ohio State team), his off field activities are equally impressive. He is recognized as a scholar in the works of Scottish poet Robert Burns and has spoken at international meetings on the poet. He is proud of his culture and is a student of American history with a special emphasis on the Civil War.
"If you have the resources and desire to help students reach goals they would otherwise be unable to reach, that is really special. Education is truly the great equalizer and UMass Dartmouth excels at offering students tremendous opportunities," says Mr. Watkins.