The Cleveland teen, who had been accepted for enrollment at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, was the daughter of Ralph Buckner Jr. and stepdaughter of Chari Buckner, who presented the scholarship recently in Chicago during the 2011 NFDA/CANA International Convention & Expo.
NFDA is the National Funeral Directors Association and CANA is the Cremation Association of North America. The Buckners made the presentation on behalf of the Ralph Buckner Foundation and Ralph Buckner Funeral Home & Crematory of Cleveland.
Buckner’s commitment to education dates back to 2004 when he began developing memorial scholarships. The first came with the Ralph Buckner Golf Classic in memory of his father, the late Ralph Buckner Sr. who founded Buckner Funeral Home and served as police commissioner on the former Cleveland City Commission.
Since its inception, the Ralph Buckner Golf Classic has raised more than $130,000 to fund scholarships at Cleveland State Community College and Lee University in memory of Ralph and Stella Buckner. This year, the name of Buckner Jr.’s daughter has been added to the memorials.
Scholarships funded by the golf tournament, which has grown to become one of the largest in the Southeast Tennessee region, are designated to help students pursuing careers in business, education, law enforcement, firefighting and emergency response.
In making the scholarship presentation in Chicago, Buckner told NFDA and CANA members that the Funeral Service Foundation was selected for the $100,000 memorial because Shipley Buckner’s dream had been to follow in her father’s footsteps by becoming a funeral director.
“We are giving to the Foundation in Shipley’s honor because we believe so strongly in what funeral service does,” Buckner said. “I currently serve on the board of the Funeral Service Foundation, and as a part of that commitment, Shipley’s memorial reaffirms my support of its work to support research, grants and scholarships making our profession stronger.”
The Buckners’ major gift was presented at the opening session of the Chicago convention. Their philanthropy was recognized at the FSF Donor Reception held at the McCormick Convention Center in Chicago.
FSF Chair Shaun Myers said the memorial is a fitting gesture made by a widely respected funeral director who wants to support the advancement of the profession and its humanitarian service.
“Ralph Buckner’s continued major support of the Foundation demonstrates his commitment to helping move the funeral service profession forward while honoring Shipley’s memory,” Myers said in an FSF news release datelined out of Brookfield, Wis.
Myers added, “Thanks to his ongoing generosity and leadership, we will be able to continue to support groundbreaking research and other grant opportunities that benefit funeral service.”
The FSF gift is one of many educational scholarships created through the Ralph Buckner Foundation.
Buckner Jr., a longtime Cleveland-based funeral director, was elected last year to the FSF board of trustees. He is a licensed funeral director and licensed insurance agent in Tennessee. He earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Tennessee Wesleyan College; and, he is an alumnus of the LSU Graduate School of Banking. He also holds a master’s of business administration from the Robert C. Goizueta Business School at Emory University in Atlanta.
Buckner Jr. holds designations as certified preplanning consultant and certified funeral service practitioner. He is a former member of the Tennessee State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers.
His wife, Chari, coordinates the annual Ralph Buckner Golf Classic and works alongside her husband in various civic roles to keep alive the memory of Shipley Buckner and of the late teen’s grandparents, Ralph and Stella Buckner. Buckner Jr.’s sisters Becky Burke, Linda Hunt and Judy Harvey are also actively involved in the business and foundation support.
Chari Buckner is a past chairman, and now vice chair, of the Bradley/Cleveland Public Education Foundation. Earlier this year she was named a member of the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities. Prior to her Tennessee Valley Authority retirement, she had served for many years as customer service manager at TVA’s Cleveland offices.
Other family members also remain involved in the foundation in support of Shipley Buckner’s memory, including her brother, Brandon Buckner; as well as Ralph and Chari Buckner’s daughters, Stella and Paris Buckner. Shipley and Brandon Buckner’s mother is Jan Buckner, also a Cleveland resident.
Buckner Jr. said that through the scholarship, grant and research gift to FSF, the Buckner family is assuring that the memory of Shipley Buckner “... lives on and benefits other teenagers with future education.”
Scholarships are also being set up at Baylor School and UT- Knoxville.