Living the Creed: Auburn student earns prestigious Truman Scholarship
“I believe in Auburn and love it.” Most Auburn students would easily recognize this closing sentence to the Auburn Creed, penned in 1945 by college president and history professor George Petrie. Few, however, would be able to recite the creed further without help, but two lines are worth emphasis: “I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and my hands to work skillfully,” and “I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.” Petrie wrote these words when the nation’s president, Harry S. Truman, held these same ideals. Truman’s appreciation for knowledge and his desire to connect with individuals at a personal level earned him the moniker “the man of the people.” His commitment to these qualities lives on in a scholarship that bears his name, which is annually awarded to college students who exhibit a passion for educating themselves as well as others. It is fitting that Auburn student and history major Sam Wilcox earned one of only 59 Harry S. Truman Scholarships awarded for the 2014 academic year.
The Truman Scholarship funds graduate education for exceptional students who possess a passion for helping others. For Wilcox, public service has always been a priority. Whether he was signing Alabamians up for health care or advocating for marginalized groups on Auburn's campus, Wilcox said that he has “always sought out ways to aid local communities.” In addition to providing funds for graduate study—which Wilcox plans to use towards law school tuition—the scholarship grants access to a wide social network that allows scholarship recipients to live and work in Washington D.C. during the summer after graduation. Wilcox’s inspiration to apply for the scholarship came from fellow Auburn student and 2013 Truman Scholarship recipient Azeem Ahmed. Encouragement from Paul Harris in Auburn’s Honor’s College furthered Wilcox’s interest in the scholarship, and in October 2013 he began what he half-jokingly described as a five month process of writing, editing, re-editing and “giving up, starting completely over, and turning in the application in February.”
Wilcox cites his training as a history major as great preparation for the application process. “Since the application consists of nine or ten short essays, the writing, critical thinking, and creative skills that a history degree fosters definitely helped,” said Wilcox. He credits the challenging nature of Auburn’s history program with forcing him to hone his skills as a writer. At the same time, the concern for student success and passion for historical knowledge exuded by Auburn’s professors inspired him to pursue his own research interests in Latin American-United States relations during the immediate post-World War II era.
For any students interested in applying for the Truman Scholarship or other similar awards, Wilcox advised them to remember that “for any competitive scholarship or grant, everyone is a long shot.” Therefore he recommends building a supportive team and starting the application process early. In particular, Wilcox thanked Dr. Tiffany Sippial and Dr. Adam Jortner for their support and letters of recommendation. Dr. Paul Harris was a resource that Wilcox described as “simply the best,” and Wilcox encouraged anyone applying for fellowships to seek Harris out for advice and guidance. The History Department extends its congratulations to Sam and wishes him the best in his future endeavors.
Last Updated: November 11, 2014