UTD Selects 15 New Eugene McDermott Scholars

Latest Class Includes Two Valedictorians, Three Salutatorians and
Expands Program’s Reach to Two New States: Arkansas, Oklahoma

RICHARDSON, Texas (May 9, 2006) — The prestigious Eugene McDermott Scholars Program at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), which provides full academic scholarships and unique cultural and civic opportunities to select high school students, has named 15 men and women who will make up the program’s 2006 class. 

As McDermott Scholars, the students will have all of their educational expenses — including travel, room and board and books — covered for the next four years and will participate in a wide variety of artistic and educational experiences.  During their tenure at UTD, they will go on an orientation trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, visit the nation’s capital and have an opportunity to study abroad as well as a chance to apply for internships at prominent corporations, government offices and research institutions. 

The latest class includes two valedictorians and three salutatorians and boasts an average SAT score of 2160 out of 2400 under the test’s new scoring format or 1480 out of 1600 under the old format.  Collectively, the students are in the top 2.3 percent of their high school classes and hail from three states, including Texas and, for the first time, Arkansas and Oklahoma. 

Many members of the new group — made up of eight women and seven men — are athletes and participate in such sports as tennis, rugby, soccer, volleyball and basketball, among others.  Also included in the assemblage are musicians and aspiring actors.  Some of the students are writers for their school or local newspapers, several are members of National Honor Society, and a number of the students are multi-lingual.  One student has dual citizenship in both China and the United States, and another is a dual citizen of Israel and Argentina.

The group is as academically talented as it is diverse.  Some of the majors they have selected include neuroscience, cognitive science and neurobiology, biochemistry, mathematics, electrical engineering, arts and humanities and economics.

Dr. Charles Leonard, director of the McDermott Scholars Program, praised the breadth and depth of knowledge, maturity and academic prowess possessed not only by this sixth class of scholars, but also by all the applicants.

“We are tremendously excited about the 2006 entering class of Eugene McDermott Scholars,” Leonard said.  “Both as individuals and as a group, these young people are committed to achieving at the highest level of scholarship and community voluntarism.  Each year the applicant pool is stronger, each year the choices among the applicants are more difficult and each year the incoming class joins a stronger, more mature program.  We can’t wait to see what honors, awards and achievements these young people add to the list of McDermott Scholar accomplishments.”

Many McDermott Scholars have gone on to other outstanding universities or have received high honors based on their educational and civic achievements.  Last spring, Sophie Rutenbar, a member of 2002 entering class, won a prestigious Truman Scholarship.  That award is given annually to a select group of college students interested in pursuing a career in public service.  Also in 2005, Kassandra McLean, another member of the 2002 class, received a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which is given annually based on academic merit to students planning careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering.  Just this month, Chris Affolter, a member of the 2003 class, won a Rieser Fellowship in Science, Technology and Global Security.  The Rieser also is given annually and aims to resolve persistent global security problems. 

Other Scholars are continuing their studies at the graduate level at UTD or elsewhere, including Harvard Medical School, New York University School of Law and veterinary school at Texas A&M University, to name a few. 

The McDermott Scholars program was made possible in 2000 by a $32-million gift — the largest in UTD’s history — from Mrs. Margaret McDermott, wife of the late Eugene McDermott, one of the co-founders of Texas Instruments.  McDermott and two of his TI co-founders, Cecil Green and Erik Jonsson, both of whom also are deceased, founded the research institution that in 1969 became UTD. 

Those selected as McDermott Scholars for the 2006 entering class are:

Linda Bi, Centennial High School, Frisco, Texas
Linda is a charter member and president of Centennial’s National Honor Society chapter, and is the newly built high school’s first-ever valedictorian.  She has won awards in Academic Decathlon, varsity tennis and University Interscholastic League science competitions.  She volunteers for the Plano Public Library System and Frisco Family Services.  Linda plans to major in economics.

Kaitlin Butler, Booker T. Washington High School, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Kaitlin was selected for the Oklahoma Academic All-State and is the recipient of the achievement award in writing from the National Council of Teachers of English.  She is an active member of her school’s model United Nations team and National Honor Society, and also writes for the youth section of her local newspaper.  Kaitlin hasn’t decided on a major.

Jonathan Coker, Booker T. Washington High School, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Jonathan is a member of his school’s National Honor Society, a rugby player and a former football and volleyball player.  An award-winning model U.N. delegate, Jonathan plans to study biochemistry, but acknowledges that changing majors is likely.

Ryan Henry, The Canterbury Episcopal School, DeSoto, Texas
Ryan is a member of the National Honor Society, president of the Latin club and a member of the varsity basketball, baseball and soccer teams.  He is a basketball state champion.  Ryan performed as the male lead in both South Pacific and Fiddler on the Roof.  He is currently undecided on a major.

Lauren Hollis, School for the Talented and Gifted, Dallas, Texas
Lauren is an Advanced Placement scholar with distinction, vice president of International Thespian Society and a member of English National Honor Society, Science National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta and National Honor Society.  She is chair of her school’s prom committee and senior event coordinator, as well as a captain of the UIL spelling and vocabulary and one-act play teams.  Lauren plans to major in arts and humanities and hopes to become an attorney.

Samia Hossain, Lewisville High School, Lewisville, Texas
As president of her school’s ASIA Club, Samia coordinated, managed and hosted the 2006 culture festival at LHS.  She has held offices in student council, LEO Club and Academic Octathlon and donates much of her time to volunteering at Teen Court and Trinity Medical Center.  Samia has participated in the breast cancer Relay for Life for four years.  She plans to major in neuroscience.

Arie Litovsky, Honey Grove High School, Honey Grove, Texas
Having lived in Israel and Argentina, Arie speaks both Hebrew and Spanish.  He is a UIL state qualifier in computer science and competes in calculator applications and mathematics.  He volunteers in his local Beta Club and helps oversee his school’s technology resources.  Arie plans to major in computer science.

Kaitlin Nelson, The Hockaday School, Dallas, Texas
Kaitlin was a recipient of the Bausch & Lomb Honorary Science Award and was recently inducted into the Cum Laude Society.  Outside the classroom, she has played both viola and alto saxophone in her school’s orchestra, and she has participated in quiz bowl and political awareness.  Kaitlin plans to major in cognitive science.

Megan Newman, Eastwood High School, El Paso, Texas
Megan has been her school’s class president, class secretary and student body public relations officer.  She also played varsity volleyball and tennis and volunteered for a tutoring program in math.  She has backpacked to the top of the highest peak in Texas — Guadalupe Peak — and is a published poet.  She attended Texas Bluebonnet Girls State in 2005.  Megan plans to major in history and hopes to become a lawyer and judge.

Alex Palmer, Red Oak High School, Red Oak, Texas
Alex played an integral role in the creation of both the very first UIL swim team and the newly offered AP chemistry course at Red Oak High.  He received geometry, physics and pre-calculus student of the year awards, and was first alternate to the state UIL tournament in ready writing.  Last summer, Alex was a lifeguard at Presbyterian Children’s Home and Services in Waxahachie, and he tutored neighborhood students on a weekly basis.  Alex plans to major in physics.

Tyler Ratliff, Sweeny High School, Sweeny, Texas
Tyler is the vice president of Sweeny’s International Thespian Troupe #5, and was named thespian of the year his junior year.  He volunteers at Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson, Texas, and spent part of last summer in San Jose, Calif., attending the National Youth Leadership Forum on Technology.  Tyler plans to major in electrical engineering and hopes to work in the nanotechnology field.

Elizabeth Schmiedel, Carroll Senior High School, Southlake, Texas
Liz is secretary of her school’s Art National Honor Society and has had her award-winning artwork shown in the juried festival, Art in the Square.  She is co-author of the only history of the 112th Cavalry National Guard.  She enjoys visits to the local nursing home with her trained Great Dane.  Liz intends to pursue a career in dentistry.

Vincent Tran, Midland High School, Midland, Texas
Vincent is an AP National Scholar and a Bausch & Lomb Honorary Science Award winner.  He is a regional winner in the Barbara Jordan Historical Essay competition and regional winner in the computer science division of his local science fair.  Vincent began a tutoring service that provides free assistance to students at the elementary, junior high and high school levels.  He plays guitar and chess and plans to major in biology.

Eric Vance, Arkansas School of Math, Sciences & the Arts, Hot Springs, Arkansas
Eric is president of the Teenage Republicans, a member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta and many other organizations.  He plays varsity soccer with Hot Springs High School, as well as several intramural and recreational sports such as basketball and golf.  He is an accomplished tubist and was selected for the all-state band his sophomore year.  He also plays the electric bass guitar.  Eric is undecided on a major.

Lissette Villarruel, The Hockaday School, Dallas, Texas
Lissette is a member of the Hockaday Honor Council.  She was a manager for the varsity softball team for two years and is a member of the Amnesty International Club and a volunteer for the Center for Survivors of Torture in Dallas.  Lissette is currently undecided on a major.

About UTD

The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor®, enrolls nearly 14,500 students.  The school’s freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores.  The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs.  For additional information about UTD, please visit the university’s website at www.utdallas.edu.