New scholarship established in memory of Outer Banks journalist Irene Nolan

Irene Nolan (left) and Donna Barnett. [submitted photo]

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.

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

Irene moved to the southern Outer Banks in 1991 after a successful career at the Louisville, KY Courier-Journal. She moved to Hatteras in 1991 and married C.A. Boxley of Frisco. She became editor of the Island Breeze, a southern Outer Banks publication. 16 years later, Irene and Donna 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.”

This fund, like most other Community Foundation scholarship funds, will offer up to four years of scholarship funding to each student recipient. In addition, 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.

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 making a contribution online at, and selecting the fund from the searchable funds list.

The Outer Banks Community Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charitable organization that connects people who care with causes that matter. Based in a historic flat top cottage in Southern Shores, the Community Foundation manages more than $25 million across more than 200 charitable funds for individuals and agencies, awards grants to local nonprofits, administers 60 scholarship programs, and provides tailored services to help donors pursue their charitable interests. Since its inception in 1982, the Community Foundation has awarded more than $12 million in grants and scholarships to local nonprofits and students.