The late Irene Nolan, co-founder and editor of the Island Free Press, left, with co-founder and business partner Donna Barnett. Photo courtesy of Donna Barnett

Ocracoke students wishing to study English or a related subject in college may apply for scholarship help from The Irene Nolan Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Outer Banks Community Foundation.

The late Nolan was co-founder and editor of the Island Free Press, the first online newspaper for the Hatteras and Ocracoke communities.

Nolan’s long-time business partner and Island Free Press co-founder, Donna Barnett recently established this fund. Renewable college scholarships will be awarded in Nolan’s name to students on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, with preference given for students pursuing English-related degrees.

As with most other Community Foundation scholarship funds, this fund will offer up to four years of scholarship funding to each student recipient. Also, the fund is endowed, meaning that the bulk of its assets will remain invested and only 5% of its earnings will be spent each year. In this way, the fund will be a perpetual source of scholarships for students on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.

Irene Nolan was a force for good for nearly two decades on our Outer Banks. She was an accomplished journalist and newspaper editor, an early board member for Hatteras Island Cancer Foundation, an enthusiastic volunteer for other causes, and a friend to many island residents.

Nolan moved to Hatteras in 1991 after a successful career at the Louisville, Kentucky, Courier-Journal. She married C.A. Boxley of Frisco and she became editor of the Island Breeze, a southern Outer Banks publication. Noland and Barnett in 2007 launched the Island Free Press (IFP), the first and only online newspaper to cover the southern Outer Banks. That publication quickly became an important community resource for visitors and residents.

“This has been a dream of mine since Irene’s untimely death in 2017,” said Barnett. “Irene was many things to me.  A second mother, a mentor, a friend and an icon. She was also a lot of things to this community and was considered the voice of our islands. It was only fitting to start a scholarship in her name. I am so excited about this scholarship coming to fruition and look forward to watching it grow and help more and more students through the coming years.”

“As one of many writers who were lucky to work with Irene at the Island Breeze and the Island Free Press, I can’t think of a better tribute to her legacy than to help the next wave of Outer Banks writers pursue their own love of journalism,” said Joy Crist, current editor of the Island Free Press. “Irene remains the soul and backbone of the IFP, and I’m beyond grateful to Donna and the Community Foundation for finding a beautiful way to shine a spotlight on an incredible journalist, editor, and friend.” 

Anyone may contribute to the Irene Nolan Memorial Scholarship Fund by sending a check to the Community Foundation with the fund name in the memo line, or by contributing online at, and selecting the fund from the searchable funds list.

All donations to the Outer Banks Community Foundation, a 501(c)3 charitable nonprofit based in Southern Shores, Dare County, are tax deductible.

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