Columbia native creates scholarship to remember friend, pilot

Columbia native creates scholarship to remember friend, pilot
Atholton High School graduates, friends and military members Marc Taylor, left, and Brian Hubbard, right, pose in front of a plane at the Dallas Naval Air Station in 1994. Hubbard died later that year from a heart problem. Taylor recently established a scholarship for Atholton High seniors interested in a military career, to memorialize his friend. (Submitted photo / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

One of Marc Taylor's fondest memories of his buddy and fellow Atholton High School alumni Brian Hubbard takes place in the summer of '86, after the two had graduated from college — Hubbard from the Naval Academy and Taylor from Penn State University on an Army ROTC scholarship.

"When do guys ever go to see movies together?" Taylor said. "But he was like, you gotta go see this movie with me."


Hubbard was headed to flight school in four weeks, and Taylor to basic training in Oklahoma. The movie they saw was "Top Gun," starring Tom Cruise as a maverick Navy pilot sent to train at the Fighter Weapons School in San Diego.

"Brian said, this is exactly the life I'm going to be living," Taylor said.

Eight years after that summer, in 1994, Hubbard died of a heart problem while playing softball on his base in San Diego. He was 31 at the time, and is survived by his wife, Susie, and daughter, Jacqueline, who is now 24.

"I had never known him to be ill, so I was in complete shock and surprise," said Taylor, 51. "That hit me hard."

He has searched for a way to honor his friend ever since, but didn't doubled-down on the effort until more recently, when the health of Hubbard's mother declined.

"It was my goal to get the first year started so she could be there to know it happened," he said about his friend's mother, Joanne Clay.

With Clay's input, Taylor decided to fund a $300 scholarship for minority students at Atholton High School who plan to attend college and pursue a career in the military. It's named the Taylor Hubbard Military Book Award after the two friends' families.

"It's really for students who show a lot of commitment and dedication, and forethought to future," he said. "We're looking for well-rounded students who could be accepted into one of the military academies, or might just need a hand in those college pursuits."

Two weeks ago, Taylor and his family traveled from New Jersey, where he now lives, to present the inaugural award to Atholton High senior Daviah Barnett, a leader in her school's JROTC program. Hubbard's mother was unable to attend the June 2 awards ceremony because of her health.

"Brian's mom cried when I told her about it," Taylor said, "She was honored. She thought it is a great way to make sure we pass on Brian's legacy, to focus it towards minority students."

Clay said opportunities like the book award are important for encouraging minorities like himself and Hubbard to attend military schools and join the military, in order to diversify those institutions.

"It was not easy for my son to do what he did," she said about his time in the Naval Academy. "Because they made it extremely difficult for him, and they usually do when you're a minority attending what has been an all-white institution.

"From the silent treatment to verbal abuse, Brian was able to go through it without having that affect him, or the way behaved," she said.

One of the reasons that Hubbard and Taylor bonded as 14-year-old Atholton students is because there weren't many other minorities interested in the military at their school, Taylor said.


Taylor and Clay said that both sets of parents supported the friendship.

"Parents try to gravitate you towards those type of people who are focused, committed, have a clear-minded approach to life and school," Taylor said. "Both my parents and his parents wanted us to pursue our friendship."

"Nothing that one would do would be in conflict with the other's parental values," Clay said. "Marc is cool, and his parents are very nice people."

Hubbard was intrigued by Taylor's father because he had served for more than 20 years in the Army as an aviator, Taylor said; Hubbard had always wanted to be a pilot and was involved in the Civil Air Cadet Program, which trains youth in aerospace education.

"He just had a love of flying," said Taylor.

After graduating from the Naval Academy and flight school, Hubbard eventually became an aviator on one of the largest aircraft carriers in the Navy's fleet.

"Becoming a pilot was a highlight of his life and of all our lives," Taylor said.

While Hubbard followed his dream of becoming a pilot, Taylor completed Army basic training and served in West Germany as part of the Third Infantry division. He left the military after four and a half years of service to pursue a career in technology.

Throughout their twenties, the two stayed in touch through letters and occasional visits, and Taylor maintained ties with Hubbard's family — especially his mother — even after his friend's death.

"I think he's a wonderful guy," Clay said about Taylor. "He's really remarkable, for his age, to be thinking of others."

Taylor has submitted enough funds to support the Taylor Hubbard Military Book Award for the next 10 years, he said, and plans to expand its scope in the future. He hopes the scholarship will serve as a lasting memory of Hubbard for both friends' families.

"I wanted to create a legacy for both of our families and create a memory so that the next generation of Hubbards and Taylors would understand the responsibility and commitment that they would have to continue during their adult lives," he said.