New scholarship established in memory of dental alumnus who loved helping others

Stephanie Oberempt
January 22, 2021
John Covington, left, and Robert Lukey
John Covington, left, and Robert Lukey.


The James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine has announced the establishment of the John L. Covington and Robert J. Lukey Scholarship. The scholarship will support a dental student, preferably one who also attended the College of Charleston and shares the donors’ values of helping others regardless of age, race, religion, origin, and, most importantly, sexual orientation and identification.

When they first met in 1984, Covington was a senior at the College of Charleston, and Lukey worked in photography. The two soon grew inseparable and remained partners –and then spouses – until Covington’s death in 2020, nearly 36 years later. Together they enjoyed a life filled with experiences, including travel, performing arts and fine dining.

After Covington graduated from the College of Charleston, he attended the MUSC James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine. Lukey is a graduate of the University of Pretoria, The New School for Social Research in New York, and The Citadel. He served as the arts and sciences department chair at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston and is the owner of Robert Lukey Photography and Painting.

“John’s years at MUSC proved as welcoming and warm as his years at the College of Charleston,” Lukey said. “As a young gay man from a conservative small town in South Carolina, he found both colleges and the city of Charleston liberating.”

After earning his D.D.S., Covington practiced general dentistry at Sexton Dental in Myrtle Beach for more than 25 years. According to Lukey, Covington loved helping people, particularly the disadvantaged. During the early years of the AIDS epidemic, Covington cared for HIV and AIDS patients when other dentists refused to do so. In many cases, he provided his care for free.

After Covington’s death, Lukey established the scholarship to serve as a lasting memory and legacy to their relationship. 

“The motivation behind this scholarship is the Hindu proverb that states we all die twice,” explained Lukey. “The first time we die is when we take our last breath. The second time is when our name is spoken aloud for the last time. It is our hope that this scholarship will indefinitely delay that second death for John and me.”

Creating a named scholarship at the MUSC James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine is an important way alumni, family and friends can remember or honor someone while investing in the future of its students. By pledging a gift through your estate and combining it with a multiyear pledge, you can create a permanent fund at the MUSC Foundation, which will ultimately provide an annual scholarship back to a dental student.

For more information, please contact Stephanie D. Oberempt, development director for the MUSC James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine at or 843-792-6933.