Meehan Scholarship recipients honored at annual breakfast

2019 Meehan Scholars

The College of Arts and Sciences hosted a breakfast Friday to celebrate this year’s Eugene J. Meehan Scholarship recipients. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Going into the start of the school year, Sophia Caballero didn’t expect any more financial aid. She had made peace with it, but a pleasant surprise awaited her as classes began.

Caballero, a junior studying criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, was shocked to learn she had been chosen as one of 24 recipients of the Eugene J. Meehan Scholarship. The feeling was mutual for fellow recipient Ruth Kvistad.

“I was actually kind of surprised because I didn’t really expect to get anything,” said Kvistad, a junior studying philosophy. “I was just shooting in the dark when I applied, but I was elated.”

The annual scholarship awards $3,000 to junior and senior undergraduate students pursuing degrees in the College of Arts and Sciences. To be selected, students must also have a GPA of at least 3.3.

Family and faculty joined the 2019-2020 Meehan Scholarship recipients Friday morning to honor their achievements.

Birgit Noll, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, noted the scholarship is the largest the college gives. Noll said the money can be crucial for students.

“This is a significant amount for our students,” she said. “It helps them either pay for a class or two or it helps with supplies. It might help them buy books or afford a study abroad trip – even an internship. There are many different ways in which this money really allows our students to pursue their dreams that they otherwise might not be able to.”

For Caballero, it means she can take the classes she’s most interested in without worrying about the associated costs, such as supplies and books. For others, the scholarship was a financial lifeline when they needed it most.

Joseph Hill, a senior studying computer science, said his other scholarships and job weren’t going to cover the costs of his final semester. Hill’s paying for his own education, and he was considering a second job to make ends meet. But then his advisor called him with the good news.

“This should just about cover the entire semester,” Hill said. “I commute here every day, too. So, pretty much in the past, whenever I’ve gotten a little bit of extra from scholarships, it all ends up going to my car breaking down or gas every week.”

Kvistad was also anticipating a funding shortfall.

“Just getting an education in general is a really expensive thing these days,” she said.  “We were using the GI Bill to pay for it, but I only had two years of that for my undergrad. It’s expiring this year, so it’s going to be very helpful.”

The scholarship was established in honor of Eugene J. Meehan, a Curators’ Professor Emeritus, who taught for more than 20 years in the Department of Political Science at UMSL. He died in 2002 but left a larger-than-life legacy.

Before his time at UMSL, Meehan flew 88 combat missions in his P-51D Mustang during World War II – something he rarely talked about despite earning a Distinguished Flying Cross. After his service, he worked in military education for the Air Force and the U.S. Armed Forces Institute and then as a faculty member at several universities.

Founders Professor Emeritus Terry Jones, Meehan’s friend and colleague, said Meehan wanted to shape how social sciences were taught. He got that opportunity when he came to UMSL in 1970.

“He wanted to set his mark on making a public metropolitan research university the model for what higher education should be – not simply in the United States, but in the world,” Jones said.

Many of the recipients were not initially aware of the origins of the scholarship but felt inspired after learning more. Hill said it gave him a greater sense of purpose knowing the scholarship was tied to someone like Meehan.

In general, he’s grateful for the opportunities UMSL has provided.

“I’ve met some incredible people and some incredible professors who have motivated me immensely,” Hill said. “Especially in the context of the scholarship, I wouldn’t have done as well as I have at the school had it not been for the school’s support.”

The 2019-20 recipients are:

Danielle Bischoff, modern language

Lauren Bowers, criminology and criminal justice

Sophia Caballero, criminology and criminal justice

Amarilda Celhaka, computer science

Eric Eggers, modern language

Abigail Foster, psychology

Seth Hamra, modern language

Joseph Hill, computer science

Kay Hood, modern language

Lauren Huebner, biology

Elizabeth Koellner, psychology

Ruth Kvistad, philosophy

Melissa Maune, political science

James Maupin, engineering

Amelia Muzzarelli, history

Alexandra Nagy, criminology and criminal justice

Lincoln Presley, English

Joseph Retzer, political science

Amy Seidel, computer science and modern language

Olivia Soule, sociology

Melissa Suthers, computer science

Moriah Swoboda, biochemistry and biotechnology

Harper Wieldt, chemistry

Lauren Wilson, undeclared arts and sciences

Jeffrey Wright, psychology

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