In 2009 Julian Cook’s powerful baritone voice won him recognition as a Presidential Scholar in the Arts (IL). Today he still sings, but it’s his voice as a scholar, innovator, educator, and community leader that’s earning him center stage.
Julian grew up on the south side of Chicago, a grandson of Mississippi sharecroppers who moved to Illinois in the 1940s. He always sang, but he didn’t recognize his artistry as anything special because he thought everybody could sing. His mother, grandmother, and sister always sang, and music was a big part of his church life.
A few weeks after her high school graduation, Alice Trenholme Isaacman (1964, OR) met Alan Shepard, the first American in space, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. A quarter century later, she began working for the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) project at NASA.
Her first NASA visit was part of her national recognition as a Presidential Scholar. “That was in 1964, the very first year of Presidential Scholars,” Isaacman said. “We got the royal treatment. And I do mean the royal treatment.” Isaacman recalls shaking President Johnson’s hand, visiting the Supreme Court, and eating lunch with Senator Wayne Morse (one of just two senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution).
Catherine and Nicole Dekle have answered just about every identical twin question there is.
“We get asked a lot whether we have ESP,” said Nicole Dekle Collins, an editor at The Wall Street Journal. “We don’t.”
A physician based in Atlanta, Catherine offers a plausible explanation for twin telepathy. “I remember once we were cooking in the kitchen, and I turned to Nicole and asked if she remembered this one time we went to the beach. She said she had just been thinking about that, too. But we realized it was because we had both heard fragments of a song and, because we had the same shared experiences, it brought up the same memory.”
Multiple award-winning writer and videographer Lex Hames (1966, MT) has traveled a remarkable path in life, whether spinning prayer wheels in the great Gonden Monastery at 14,000 feet in Tibet, riding horseback across Mongolia to meet the Reindeer People, or hitchhiking through the Yukon with a husky named Odin. We asked him to the share some of his adventures with us. Here's what he told us.
Watching Boston City Council President Michelle Wu in action today, most people would guess she'd been a consummate politician all her life. Not so. A political career was the farthest thing from her mind in 2003, when she was named a U. S. Presidential Scholar from Illinois. Although she planned to attend Harvard, she was unsure of a particular career path. “I would never have predicted that I would be in politics," she said. "Even if someone had asked me to make a short list of careers I could see myself in, politics wouldn’t have been on that list.”
Dr. Michael Weiss (1975, OH) quickly realized that in order to get to the future—a future with advances in insulin that would benefit the poor and most vulnerable—he would have to go back to school. With a MD, PhD (both from Harvard University), and a full professorship already in hand, Weiss took a two-year sabbatical from teaching biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Medicine to earn an MBA at the CWRU Weatherhead School of Management.
"At the beginning of my journey, I didn't know what a Presidential Scholar was," says Arts Scholar Rachel Moore (CA, 1982). But she soon learned and turned her nationally recognized talent into a preeminent career—first as a dancer with the American Ballet Theatre and later as the Theatre's executive director and CEO. Today she's President and CEO of The Music Center in Los Angeles.
Kathy earned a bachelor’s from Cornell and a PhD from Rutgers. After teaching political science at the University of Vermont, Kathy joined the staff of CBS News, where she served as the point person for the network’s polling branch and for its collaboration with The New York Times poll (the oldest print/broadcast polling partnership in the United States).
K. Tsianina Lomawaima (known as Kimberly Carr when she was a Scholar from Ohio in 1972) is a prominent Native American academic and author who has earned national recognition for her landmark books, To Remain an Indian (Outstanding Book Award, American Educational Research Association); and They Called It Prairie Light (North American Indian Prose Award, American Educational Association Critics’ Choice Award).
For Clara Shih (2000, IL), the Presidential Scholars National Recognition Program was a life-changing experience. One fellow Scholar became her college roommate and a best friend for life. Another became a partner in a venture capital firm that has now invested in Clara’s enterprise software company, Hearsay Social.
From high school shot-putter to critically acclaimed writer. It's not a self-portrait many people paint, but Sam Lipsyte (Arts Scholar, 1986, NJ) seldom colors inside the lines. He insists he's just an ordinary guy, but his life tells a different story.
Presidential Scholars are a diverse group, but they share one thing in common: each attains an outstanding measure of achievement at an early age. Few, however, can match internationally acclaimed cellist Bion Tsang (1984, NY) who was much younger than most when his talents were recognized.
Merrick Garland (1970, IL) is Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He was appointed to the court in 1997 and was named Chief Judge in February 2013. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Garland has spent the majority of his career in public service, serving as Special Assistant to the Attorney General (1979-1981), Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia (1989-1992),
Singer-songwriter and actress, India Carney, turned what was once a dream into reality when she succeeded in making her national debut television appearances on NBC’s “The Voice” Season 8. A multi-talented performing artist and vocalist, Carney sang alongside Grammy-award winner Christina Aguilera and American pop singer Jason Derulo.
Named a Presidential Scholar in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson, Donald S. Beyer Jr. is currently the U.S. Congressman for Virginia's 8th District and is the former U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Maria Filsinger Interrante (2012, MN) entered the spotlight in the scientific community in August 2015 as part of the groundbreaking research team at the Stanford Smolke Laboratory that created chemically synthesized yeast and bioengineered opioids with the potential to rewrite and reduce the story of pain around the globe.
Mitch Daniels, the former Governor of Indiana, is currently the President of Purdue University. Visiting the White House as a 1967 Presidential Scholar from Indiana likely whetted his appetite for a political career.
Jamie Raskin is working hard to be the next Congressman for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District. Jamie is aided in his campaign by numerous former Presidential Scholars, including his “best friend for life", Louisiana’s Michael Anderson (1979, LA). Jamie and Michael met at the National Recognition Week in the summer of 1979.
Like most Scholars, Jack Wolfgramm, 2015 Presidential Scholar from Hawaii, was surprised and pleased to be invited to be a candidate, and even more surprised to have been selected. His trip from Hawaii to Washington D.C. for the National Recognition Program, though, was much different than for other Scholars.
Since being named a U.S. Presidential Scholar in 1975, Rear Admiral (RADM) Patrick O’Carroll has worked in medicine and public health – writ large and writ small - from seeing individual patients, to investigating disease outbreaks, to helping the federal government efficiently and effectively promote health and prevent disease.
When poet Rita Dove was named Ohio’s Presidential Scholar in 1970, she surely didn’t know it was only the first of many national academic and literary honors. She served as Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995...
In 1988, Kristin Forbes was honored by President Reagan as New Hampshire’s Presidential Scholar; in 2003, she returned to Washington as President Bush’s appointee to the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), and its youngest member ever.
Acclaimed actor/producer on TV, in film and on the stage; the host of NPR’s “Jazz at Lincoln Center”; author of "The Wind in the Reeds"; and rebuilder of his native New Orleans. Wendell Pierce is all of these things, and a Presidential Scholar who also served as advisor to later Presidential Scholars during National Recognition Week in 1982 and 1983.
Perhaps Bruce Reed, currently a Senior Advisor at the Broad Foundation and former Assistant to President Obama and Chief of Staff to Vice President Biden, already had plans to change the American political landscape when he traveled to Washington as one of Idaho’s Presidential Scholars.