The Hatton W. Sumners Scholarship Foundation began awarding scholarships to Texas Wesleyan University students in 1994.
The scholarship is generally awarded to outstanding juniors and seniors studying political science, pre-law, history, or social studies, according to txwes.edu. However, students from other studies who possess strong leadership skills, high academics, and community involvement can also apply.
Students awarded the scholarship can receive up to $3,500 per semester toward tuition, according to txwes.edu.
The Sumners Scholarship program will be accepting applications for the 2015-2016 academic year until Feb. 17. Applications are located in the Financial Aid Office in the Oneal-Sells Administration building.
Administrative assistant Georgina Holzmeier works with Sumners scholars and coordinates awareness of the scholarship around campus. Holzmeier said the scholarship is an amazing opportunity for students.
“It is very exciting to work with the students and the foundation,” Holzmeier said. “I get to see the scholars use their skills and abilities to influence the world.”
Misty Wilkins, a criminal justice major and 2013 Sumners scholar, said the scholarship offers so much more than just a check.
“The scholarship has changed my life,” Wilkins said. “The opportunities are amazing and have helped me become a more proactive leader in the community and become a better student.”
Students must submit an official transcript, photograph, and resume highlighting all honors and awards along with their application. A 750- word essay highlighting personal experiences and goals is also required.
The Sumners foundation and Wesleyan pursue motivated students who are actively involved in their community, according to txwes.edu. They seek students who can enhance Wesleyan, the community and the foundation through their participation.
Students applying for the scholarship must have completed 60 credit hours by the beginning of fall 2015, have a minimum GPA of 3.0, be a citizen of the United States, and have records of participation in campus or civic activities that benefit Wesleyan or the community, according to txwes.edu. They must also have three or four semesters remaining at Wesleyan until graduation.
The competitive merit-based scholarship requires chosen applicants to interview with seven representative trustees from the foundation, according to txwes.edu. Students will be judged on the strength of their application, resume, essay, and interview before the board makes a final selection. Recipients will be notified via mail within two weeks after their interview.
Hugh Akin, executive director of the Sumners Scholarship foundation, gets to meet the interviewees before they speak with the trustees. Akins said he is there to calm their nerves and meet the new candidates.
“The trustees interview all selected applicants,” Akin said. “It is a little labor intensive for us but is well worth it. It is a rewarding job and we get the chance to build relationships with the students.”
The foundation sends a group of trustees to each university participating in the scholarship to interview qualifying students, Akin said. The interview process takes roughly 15 minutes.
“Each university must provide us with a pool of candidates who are qualified and meet the expectations of the Sumners scholarship,” Akin said. “Trustees look for unique life experiences in the candidate’s that make them who they are. They are interested in what motivates them, their ambition and attitude toward civic responsibility.”
“They always ask the students where they see themselves in life 10 to 15 years from now,” Akin said.
Sumners established the scholarship in 1949. Sumners represented the fifth district of Texas in Congress for 34 years and in his early career served as a prosecuting attorney for Dallas County, according to information on the hattonsumners.org web site.
Sumners grew up working on a farm in Tennessee and received little formal education. Hard work and self-determination allowed Sumners to teach himself law and pass the state bar of Texas, according to the site.
Sumners was a key figure in American democracy and a well-respected man, serving as a decision-maker and a policy formulator in the early 20th century, according to the site. He died in April 1962. The property he donated to the foundation generates most of the income that allows the foundation to continue.
In 2013, the Trustees of the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation approved 49 grants to 39 organizations totaling more than $2.4 million, according to hattonsumners.org. The foundation offers 14 graduate and undergraduate programs to various schools in Texas and Oklahoma.
Scholarship recipients are required to actively participate in the local, state and national democratic process, assist the foundation in charitable events and honor their civic responsibilities by devoting their time to better the community, according to hattonsumners.org.
“They know that students have such an impact on the world,” Wilkins said. “They want to see us succeeded and be well rounded.”
The foundation offers scholars the opportunity to enhance their academic, leadership, and democratic skills by providing unique educational experiences including access to private distinguished lectures in public policy, leadership and participation programs, and prestigious educational and internship opportunities in Washington, D.C., according to hattonsumners.org.
Sandra Myers, Wesleyan’s project coordinator, travels with the Sumners scholars to other universities and private lectures. Myers said the scholarship gives students the opportunity to network with important people.
“This is an amazing opportunity for the students,” Myers said. “They get to meet and speak with people they may never have gotten the chance too without the Sumners events.
Holzmeier said that the scholarship is life changing and the students who are a part of this are truly amazing and hard-working.
“This scholarship is all about helping build future leaders of America for the betterment of the nation,” Holzmeier said.