Matthew Gayer, a President’s Scholar with a triple major in public policy, economics and political science in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has been selected as a 2011 Truman Scholar. The prestigious national award recognizes college juniors with exceptional leadership potential who are committed to careers in government and public service.
Gayer, a St. Louis native, was one of 60 students chosen from 54 U.S. colleges and universities to receive the award, which provides up to $30,000 to help students pursue a graduate school education. Gayer is the 13th Truman Scholar at SMU since the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975, and the first SMU student to earn the award since 2009. He was one of 602 applicants for one of academia’s most sought-after awards.
“The Truman Scholarship not only will help monetarily for graduate school, but also will connect me to a community of future public leaders,” Gayer says. “The benefit is being able to talk with future public service professionals about how to make policy and programs move America forward on many of the major problems facing society.”
Gayer, who plans to earn a master’s degree in public policy or public health, hopes to one day work for a non-governmental community-focused organization. With funding from SMU’s Big iDeas program, in March 2009 he founded Health Literacy Dallas, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve communication between health professionals and their patients. His policy proposal for the scholarship focused on eliminating unhealthy food and beverages in American public schools.
Gayer learned about the scholarship from Kathleen Hugley-Cook, SMU’s director of national fellowships and awards. On March 29, two days before the scholars were announced, Gayer received an e-mail from SMU President R. Gerald Turner inviting him to his office the next day.
“I did not know the purpose of the meeting going into it and was a little confused,” Gayer says. “We sat down in his office, and he asked me about my plans after graduation, and then he told me that I had been selected as a 2011 Truman Scholar. I really had no words to say. It is still sinking in that I have been selected.”