Above: Alumnus Dr. John Covington and Robert J. Lukey during a trip to Venice, Italy. 

Dr. John Covington ’84 and Professor Robert J. Lukey shared a passion for travel, the arts, healthcare and education. A couple for nearly 36 years, both were deeply committed to helping others regardless of age, race, religion, origin and sexual orientation or identification. In the spirit of providing opportunities to future generations, Lukey and Covington sought to establish and support scholarships.

The newly established John L. Covington and Robert J. Lukey Endowed Scholarship provides educational access to pre-med students in the School of Sciences and Mathematics. Preference is given to students who wish to follow in Covington’s footsteps and pursue a career in dental medicine.

Recipients of the scholarship will have the benefit of meeting and getting to know their benefactor, Robert Lukey, but will only know Covington through the memories and stories Lukey shares of his husband. Covington died in January 2020 after a 15-year battle with scleroderma.

“John always spoke of his College of Charleston years as some of his happiest,” Lukey shares. “He was able to pursue a wide range of interests during his time at the College. For example, although he was a pre-med student, he also took dance classes with Robert Ivey.”

After graduating from CofC, Covington attended the Medical University of South Carolina Dental School and graduated in 1988. He ran the Sexton Dental Clinic in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, until March 2018.

Lukey is a graduate of the University of Pretoria, The New School for Social Research in New York and The Citadel. He was the arts and sciences department chair at Johnson and Wales University in Charleston. He was helping run two Charleston restaurants, The Cotton Exchange and Queen Street Seafood Inn, when he met Covington in 1984.

They developed a bond that led to many adventures during their nearly four decades together, including extensive traveling and stops at top restaurants.

“We particularly liked traveling to New York to see Broadway shows, go to the ballet and to the opera,” Lukey says.  “We traveled all over the world, with at least one or two trips overseas each year and two or three trips a year to New York.”

The couple had no children, but they wished to help foster young people by supporting scholarships to provide educational opportunities.

“This scholarship is set up to last into perpetuity as a legacy not only of John, but of our relationship,” Lukey says.

Through establishing the pre-med scholarship and reflecting on the breadth of interests that he and Covington shared, Lukey decided to establish a second scholarship at the College with a focus on the arts. The John Covington and Robert Lukey Performing Arts Endowed Scholarship will assist students in the Master of Arts in Teaching – Performing Arts Program who plan to teach. Preference will be given to students who have a demonstrated involvement, support or participation in LGBTQ+ activism.

So that both scholarships can have an impact while the endowments are maturing, Lukey established corresponding immediate-use scholarships for each area. The first recipients of both scholarships will be named in the fall of 2021.

Read the full story on Momentum, CofC’s digital philanthropy publication.