Providing support for students battling addiction
Words by Kaitie Brihn
Martin Stovall was, in many ways, similar to a lot of students at the University of Alabama. First and foremost, he loved the school itself and the Crimson Tide football team. He was the youngest of three boys and always looked up to his brothers, living with them during his sophomore year of college. He spent his free time going to concerts and to any music festival he could find. He doted on his car, a blue Nissan 350Z that he named Haley. Like any well-raised Tennessee boy, he loved his parents.
Martin had a joy for life that was apparent from the moment you met him. His most endearing attribute was the way he loved his friends. He was the kind of guy who was just as comfortable being the life of the party as being a shoulder to cry on when life got hard. He cared deeply about those around him. It might sound simple, but they meant everything to him. William Miller, one of Martin’s best friends from high school and college, mentions it numerous times. “Most of all, Martin really just loved his friends. Martin genuinely loved people. He wasn’t someone who just had surface level relationships with a bunch of different people. He had a small group of close-knit friends that he had deep and meaningful relationships with. And those people that he called friends, he would honestly do anything for them. He would go out of his way to make sure they were taken care of. He was just the kind of person that you would want in your corner.”
Sadly, Martin also suffered from the disease of addiction, and he passed away from an overdose in October 2016 at the age of 22. Funny, charming, and free-spirited, he left the world a better place and those around him better people.
However, his legacy was not destined to end there. William wanted to set up a scholarship in Martin’s name to support aspiring students in recovery from drugs and alcohol. And so the Martin J. Stovall Promises Scholarship was born at the University of Alabama, the school that Martin loved so much.
“I’ve seen a lot of people in recovery who have gone through the absolute hardest, most difficult trials in their lives—things that most people will never have any experience with. And I’ve seen those people bounce back,” William explains in regard to the scholarship’s mission. “I’ve seen this remarkable aptitude for resilience and this incredible inner strength and perseverance. And I think that students in recovery deserve every possible chance available to continue on that road to success.”
“My hope for it is that it makes a difference.” William’s goal is humble, but the results have already far exceeded the expectations. More than $55,000 has already been raised since the scholarship’s establishment in the fall of 2018, and the number continues to grow. Dr. Gerard Love, who has worked in higher education in connection with drug and alcohol use for over 30 years, wrote the first check for the scholarship and talks about his awe at the growth thus far. “Knowing that it needs to get to $25,000 before its endowed and it can help a student—because it’s difficult to raise that amount of money—I was like, ‘Alright, I’m doing this, but it is going to take so long before Will gets to that mark to where it can actually help students.’ And that’s a normal process in terms of advancement and funding. So the fact that six months later, he had doubled the amount that was needed for it to be endowed, is just absolutely amazing.”
Dr. Love serves as the Executive Director of Collegiate Recovery and Intervention Services at the University of Alabama, which includes the Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC). The CRC provides a unique service that is desperately needed in a college environment: a dedicated space on campus where students in recovery can come to relax and study, while also having access to services such as academic advising and counseling. “The CRC at Alabama is best described, I think, as a student success program. We are a student-support, student-success program for students who have chosen to come back to campus or who have been on campus and are pursuing abstinence-based recovery,” Dr. Love explains. “Everything that we do is based upon building a supportive community—a sense of family and an environment based on student input.” The CRC has many benefits, such as early registration, sober tailgates, service opportunities, and a building on campus equipped with a meditation room, a study room, computers, and places to hang out and play games or watch TV. Weekly lunches, monthly special events, and weekly seminars round out the basic offerings. The Martin J. Stovall Promises Scholarship will allow students with financial need to have the opportunity to join the CRC and gain access to all of the many resources available to help them be successful.
“I think that these stories about the addiction epidemic are very prevalent, and everyone wants to talk about it and the hopelessness of it all, the stories of despair and loss. But we don’t focus a lot on hope and perseverance, strength, and resilience in spite of addiction,” William says. “First and foremost, the scholarship is meant to memorialize a great guy who died too soon, but it’s more than that. This is about providing hope for the next person that comes along, to give him the tools that he needs to not only find a way out of this mess, but to build a better life in the process. I think that’s a piece that is sometimes missing from the national narrative about addiction: that there is a solution; there is hope. That’s what we should be focusing on and pouring our resources into.”
For more information or to donate to the Martin J. Stovall Promises Scholarship, please visit https://cris.sa.ua.edu/recovery-community/give