Sue Hilliard. Photo by Jeannie Frey Rhodes.

Sue Hilliard, Theatre Baton Rouge

A seasonal subscriber to Theatre Baton Rouge for more than 30 years, Sue Hilliard says the community-based theater has “incredible talent.” She chose to remember one special talent, Derrick D. White, through an annual scholarship fund that will ensure his memory will live on forever.

White—who had a passion for theater—died in a car accident in 1996 at the age of 15 years old. He had attended several Theatre Baton Rouge summer youth camps performing in the musicals Bye Bye Birdie and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Hilliard, 72, founded the Derrick D. White Scholarship Fund in 2007 to help children afford the costs of attending youth theater camp at the Theatre Baton Rouge.

“I just wanted to give some recognition in his memory,” Hilliard says.

White’s family and the theater now work together to award annual scholarships to deserving applicants. The scholarship covers the cost of the two-week camp and offers youngsters, usually of middle-school age, a chance to attend a camp with friends who share the same love of theater.

“I’m happy that we have this for the ones who really can’t afford to go,” Hilliard says.

The scholarship is only advertised through word of mouth and via the playbills distributed at the theater shows. A small committee selects the winners from their submitted essays about why they deserve the scholarship. The money raised for the scholarships, which have been given out for the past seven years, comes from donations from Hilliard, the White family and friends like local attorney Regi Mullins, Hilliard says.

Hilliard, a retired hairdresser, spends her time volunteering for other causes as well.

She floats from hospital to rehab center in Baton Rouge to do hair and nails—all free of charge—for patients who need their spirits boosted. She also volunteers with several other organizations including the Special Olympics, Families Helping Families and Louisiana Public Broadcasting.

“Volunteering is the chance to enhance and empower other people’s lives,” Hilliard says.

She also claims that it is her form of therapy.

How does she find the time to volunteer for all these causes, attend church and spend time with her four grandchildren?

“I let my house go,” says Hilliard. “Who cares what a house looks like?”

For more information on applying for the Derrick D. White Scholarship Fund, visit theatrebr.orgClick here to read about the rest of the Women with a Cause for 2016, and if you know someone who would make a great Woman with a Cause in 2017, let us know by emailing [email protected].

Quick Glance

How is your cause making a difference?

The annual scholarship fund gives students a chance to enhance their God-given talent. They may not have had the funds otherwise. It gives them a chance to make friends that they have something in common with.

What do you love about the volunteer efforts that you do? 

I just enjoy helping others and showing my brothers and sisters that I care.

What do you hope to achieve?

I hope it will go on forever and so it has gone on. I mean, look at it, it’s going to be 10 years. That’s not bad, is it? And we still have big nickels in there.