Todd Denson Memorial Scholarship Foundation


Call Sign: Cuddles

Died: February 3, 2001

Todd Denson, 32, son of an Army chaplain, grew up in an era when young men were lured into military aviation by the movie “Top Gun”. He was commissioned in the United States Marine Corps after graduating from the University of Tennessee. He wanted to fly the F/A-18, which he considered a safer plane, said his widow, Melissa Denson Rankin, but he quickly became a Harrier enthusiast after being assigned to the AV-8B. He had some close calls in the Harrier before his fatal accident.

He had been flying the Harrier for a decade and had been an instructor for two years, yet he kept emergency procedures written on flashcards and studied them constantly, Rankin said. “He knew it was a dangerous plane and he took it very seriously.”

He died when he and his student, Capt. Jason K. Meiners, lost control of the two-seat training Harrier they were flying to their base at Cherry Point. Denson, in the rear seat, ejected too close to the ground. Meiners was also killed in the accident. In was unclear which pilot had control.


This scholarship opportunity was created by the New Bern Breakfast Rotary Club in memory of deceased and former Rotarian Maj. Todd S. Denson to assist graduating college-bound seniors with their advancement in professional, educational, and technical learning opportunities.

Each year individuals are selected and awarded a one-year, $1000 scholarship. To be eligible for the scholarship, individuals must be graduates of high schools in Craven County, North Carolina, or Craven County, North Carolina residents graduating from high school. Students are selected based on the application and possible interview that focus on academic achievement, community service, extracurricular activities, and financial need.


For 2020 the application deadline has been extended to close of business on Friday, May 8, 2020.  To apply for this scholarship please go to the Todd Denson Application Package and submit your entire package online.

Any questions can be directed to Cecilia Chittick, Scholarship Coordinator at