Dylan Sullivan, a junior at MU, received some unexpected good news after opening an e-mail from MU Chancellor Richard Wallace on March 19.
“I re-read it a few times to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me,” Sullivan said. “I was incredibly surprised to get the award.”
Sullivan had just learned that he, along with 70 other college juniors across the country, had received the $30,000 Truman Scholar award. Sullivan will receive $3,000 during his senior year and $27,000 while in graduate school.
The program, which is federally funded, was initiated by Missouri congressman Ike Skelton to pay homage to President Harry S. Truman for his years of public service. The award is headed by the Harry S. Truman Foundation, located in the Blair House directly across from the White House.
Rick Hardy, assistant director for the honors college, is responsible for the Truman Scholar Program at MU. Hardy said becoming a Truman Scholar means a student must be active on campus and in the community from his or her freshmen to junior year.
“I am the recruiter and the coach,” said Hardy, who compares the Truman program to athletics.
Hardy said he looks for students who exhibit excellence inside and outside the classroom. Grade point average is very important, but it is not everything, he said.
“High schoolers often come to college and are not active. … I am not interested in the book worm type,” Hardy said.
He’s also not interested in students who join everything possible just to pad their resumes. Rather, he looks for well rounded students who “absolutely make a difference.”
Sullivan, a geology major, met both Hardy’s and the foundation’s criteria. He worked with administrators in a successful campaign to pressure Procter & Gamble, one of the world’s five major coffee producers, to begin selling fair trade-certified coffee and advocated its use in campus dining.
Sullivan said fair trade-certified coffee pays farmers a fair price for their crops. This price is three times the global average and would allow farmers to keep their land and invest in their communities, he said.
Sullivan also advocated that MU stop buying coffee from companies that use child labor. His efforts led to a partnership with Oxfam America, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to finding long-term solutions to poverty, hunger and social injustice. As a result of his advocacy, MU adopted a policy that mandates vendors to sell only fair trade certified coffee.
Sullivan’s interest in social causes comes from his mother, Gail, who is a social and world civilization teacher in a high school near the family’s hometown of Bowling Green, Ky.
She said all of the candidates were worthy and that her son’s hard work and dedication paid off.
“We feel very fortunate that he won and very happy ... We are also happy for MU,” she said.
Hardy said more than 1,900 colleges send applications to the foundation’s committee. Last year, MU sent in four applications and none were selected. However, all three applicants Hardy submitted this year were chosen as finalists.
The other two finalists were junior Jason Nonamaker and Kristen Durham, a junior Agricultural Economics major focusing on international trade.
Hardy said Sullivan was very qualified, but he also felt Durham should have been honored.
“She should have won that,” he said. “Quite frankly, she is the best we ever put up,” he said.
“I was definitely disappointed,” Durham said. “I am afraid I didn’t represent my college, department or university the way I should have.”
Sullivan said he hopes to use the money towards earning a masters degree in urban planning from Harvard or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.