This recent Nobel prize winner decided to give away $250,000 in prize money.
George P. Smith, a emeritus professor of biology, won the 2018 Nobel prize for Chemistry in December.
This past week he announced he will donate every cent to launch the Missouri Nobel Scholarship Fund for students in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“This might surprise some people, but my first degree was actually a bachelor of arts, not a bachelor of science,” Smith said at a community event in Columbia with his wife, Margie. “My liberal arts education was the springboard for a lifetime of learning and cultural engagement. Margie and I hope that supporting the liberal arts as a whole will enrich the lives of future Mizzou students, whatever careers they choose.”
In support of Smith’s kindness, the university will also donate an additional $30,000 to the scholarship fund.
MU Chancellor Alexander N. Cartwright also announced a new tradition to set aside $100,000 in scholarships, every time a faculty member wins a Nobel Prize. Smith is the first MU faculty member to win a Nobel prize.
“Time and time again we have been overwhelmed by George’s incredibly humble attitude, and today we are amazed even further by his spirit of generosity,” Cartwright said in a statement. “Gifts such as these make it possible for more students to attend our university and have the experience of being taught by other world-class faculty.”
At this week’s scholarship launching event, Smith spoke of his Nobel prize win and the award ceremony he attended with his wife in Stockholm, Sweden, in December, and discussed his work in phage display, a process that allows researchers to easily screen and harvest molecules for attacking bacteria.
This process is now utilized in laboratories worldwide.
According to Kansas City Star, after Smith won one of the most prestigious awards in the world, the University honored him with his own space on a campus bike rack. He lives less than a mile away and rides his bike to work each day.
To this day, faculty members still congratulate him for his win.
“George Smith has been a star of the College of Arts and Science for more than 40 years,” said Pat Okker, the college’s dean. “He is a fabulous researcher, an exceptional teacher and an awesome human being. This gift continues to prove how completely committed George and Margie are to student success.”
At 12 years old, Rama Youssef fled her home in Damascus, Syria and faced bullying from American middle schoolers. At 16, she paved her way into De Salle North Catholic High School, in North Portland.
In March 2012, Youssef, recalled an exploding bomb close to where she attended middle school.
“It was then that my mother decided we had to leave,” Youssef said.
Her mother chose to seek asylum in Germany and her father remained in Syria, where he still resides. Youssef joined her older sister in America, who had previously married a Syrian- American man. That summer of 2012, she arrived in San Diego on a tourist visa.
Youssef started seventh grade in San Diego, speaking no English. She was anxious and shy, she revealed. Her classmates targeted her for being a foreginer.
“I was called a terroist by some of them,” she said.
But life got better for her. She made friends and became fluent in English. She felt as if her life got better by her second year of highschool.
Then in 2016, Youseef, her sister, and her sister’s husband all moved to Oregon, after her sister’s husband obtained a job at a furniture store in Portland.
Following the move, it was the summer of 2016 when Youssef worked at the Subway franchise, on North Interstate Avenue, where she became intrigued in the old-fashioned brick De Salle private school, a few blocks away.
Youssef was not sure if she would get admitted, as the school rarely permitted outside transfers.
She sealed her chance, after meeting with the school’s president, Tim Hennessy.
“There was this young girl on my couch, and she started to tell her story, she started to cry,” he recalled, who retired from De Salle last December. “She really touched my heart. Her story touched my heart.”
Youssef began her junior year at the school a few days later.
The school’s untraditional curriculum offers classes only for four days a week and requires students to work one day a week with a Portland-area business. Youssef worked with Williamette Week and became involved with numerous social justice issues. She advocated rights for immigrants and volunteered with Syrian refugees who recently resettled in Oregon.
Although she was experiencing opportunities, her immigration status was another obstacle to endure. Her status allowed her to work and live in America without fear of deportation, but did not allow her to recieve finanical aid.
De Salle president and Stephanie Barnhart, a friend and mentor of Youssef’s, encouraged her to try for finincial aid. Youssef was persistent with applying for schools and scholarships.
“She completely worked her butt off,” said Barnhart, who helped edit more than 24 scholarship applications Youssef submitted.
Her hardwork eventually paid off. California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA, offered her a full scholarship of $40,000 a year. However, she still has to deal with the costs of room and board, which escalated to another $15,000.
With that, Youssef had to work three jobs. She was a cashier at Dick’s Sporting Goods, a tennis instructor for kids, and a receptionist at Williamette Week.
She also started a GoFundMe page to help cover her room and board, which raised more than $10,000.
According to Youssef, the hardest thing she has faced was figuring out how to pay for college.
“There were moments when I thought it wasn’t possible,” she said.
Overall, she is grateful for this opportunity. She hopes to become a dentist in the future.
“America’s thrown a lot of opportunities my way,” she said. I’ve taken every single one of them. I want to give back to my country and help those in need with dental care. I want to be part of organizations that go to developing countries, risking their lives to help others. I want to work hard to give my parents better lives and get the chance to see them again.”
The Rhodes Scholarship is one of the most prestigious scholarships that allows awardees the chance to study at Oxford University in England. Only 32 Americans are awarded the scholarship every year, and this time, a fellow Portlander received this award.
JaVaughn T. “JT” Flowers was a student at Lincoln High School. He did not perform well academically and even stayed a fifth year in high school at a boarding school in Connecticut. His efforts payed off, and he went on to study at Yale, founding an organization called A Leg Even to assist low-income Yale students by offering mentoring and tutoring services as well as connections to faculty. During his years at the Ivy League school, he studied in six different countries to examine the various cultures and politics. His thesis investigated Portland’s sanctuary city policy for immigrants undocumented in the United States. His academic excellence also resulted in receiving the Truman scholarship in 2016, which gives gifted students graduate support to help them prepare for government or public service careers.
He currently works for Representative Earl Blumenaur in Portland. “I’m essentially getting paid to learn about all the incredible work going on across all these different silos in Portland,” Flowers said in an interview with The Oregonian.
The competition for the Rhodes Scholarship is intense and involves a difficult, time-consuming application process. Finalists were flown out to Seattle for several events, including standing in front of a seven-judge panel. Rhodes Scholars have their tuition and all expenses covered to study for two or three years at Oxford.
Flowers was floored by the news. “I really don’t know how to attach words to it. I’m really at a loss. I’m so humbled.”
Blumenaur was thrilled by Flowers’ success. In an interview with the Associated Press, he stated, “He’s just an outstanding candidate for the Rhodes. He’s a very quick study, very good wth people, an incisive listener who is able to translate that back to people who contact him and to the staff in our office. We’re excited for him, and we’re excited for what he’s going to do when he’s back.
Flowers plans to earn degrees in Comparative Social Policy and Public Policy in order to give back to his hometown, Portland. “Portland is home for me and will always be home for me. I was born and raised here in the heart of Northeast Portland. I want to set up permanent shop here. I’ll be gone for a couple years, but then I’ll be right back here.”
Justin Juenemann, a backup kicker for the University of Minnesota’s football team, recently received an unexpected gift from an equally unexpected source. The 23 year-old has diligently worked as a volunteer at Masonic Children’s Hospital throughout his college years. His coaches and teammates were inspired to do something for him.
“Our goal was to create a moment of memory for Justin and his family forever because that’s what he earned,” said P.J. Fleck, head coach of the Minnesota Gophers.
Kyle Tanner, a teen patient at the hospital, spoke in front of the team and singled out Juenemann as his favorite player. Coach Fleck handed Tanner a t-shirt and told him to put it into a t-shirt cannon and fire it directly at Juenemann. He did so. Juenemann caught the white shirt, unraveled it and read the message on the front.
“Justin, congrats you have earned a scholarship,” it read. Justin and his teammates celebrated afterward and he FaceTimed his mother to show her the shirt.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Juenemann said. “It is something that I will never forget.”
“I’ve never seen anybody serve and give more than that guy who is not a star player,” Fleck said. “He could easily just not do it and nobody would ever say anything, and he does is continue to keep his oar in the water and live that holistic life academically, athletically, socially, and spiritually. His life is not about him. His life is about serving and giving to other people.”
This scholarship will help Juenemann complete his senior year.
“I am pursuing a human resources degree and I’m looking…to help people throughout the rest of my life,” he said.
John Hunt Jr., a recent graduate of California State University, Fresno, returned to campus this fall to help students who have experienced homelessness and foster care move into their dorms.
Hunt had been in foster care and remembers being alone on college move-in day because both of his parents were in prison at the time. Hunt, who is now pursuing a master’s degree, wanted others to have a different experience. His story was featured in a recent Kleenex ad.
“Moving into the dorms and unpacking all my stuff alone and seeing other people with their families ― it was tough for me because I would’ve loved to have my family there,” Hunt said. “So that day, I vowed that I would help prevent people from having to move into the dorms alone.”
Hunt works for Renaissance Scholars, a support program for students formerly in foster care. On move-in day, the students received supplies including blankets, toiletries, and notebooks.
The dorm is “the first home some of them have had,” Hunt said.
Through Renaissance Scholars, Hunt is positively impacting the lives of students.
“To be able to say, ‘I’m going home,’ is a big deal,” one student said.