UTC Student Awarded Truman Scholarship

When 2002 Harry S. Truman Scholarship winner Barbara (Barbie) Elwood discusses housing for the elderly, particularly those who cannot afford to reside in an expensive retirement community, she quickly becomes passionate about shaping public policy to convert private homes into suitable living quarters for older residents.

"Most people, although they have worked hard all their lives, will not go to beautiful retirement homes because they do not have the funds. We are not just talking about grandparents, parents and neighbors. Everyone who lives long enough could face these issues," Elwood said.

This University Honors junior, who majors in English with a pre-law concentration and has interests in gerontology and interior design, was awarded $3000 to support her senior year at UTC and $27,000 more to support her graduate studies at the school of her choice. This merit-based grant for graduate study is given to college juniors with exceptional leadership potential who are committed to careers in government, the nonprofit sector, or elsewhere in public service. The Scholars were selected from among 590 candidates nominated by 287 colleges and universities.

Chancellor Bill Stacy surprised Elwood by delivering the news of her selection to her while she was studying civil rights in a political science class earlier this week.

"I had absolutely no idea I had won the scholarship. I was totally shocked. When family and friends ask how I found out, and I tell them about Dr. Stacy coming to my class, they all think it is a great story," Elwood said.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship is endowed by the U.S. Congress to honor the 33rd U.S. president, and this year has been awarded to 64 undergraduate junior level students at four year colleges and universities who are nominated by accredited colleges or universities recognized by the Department of Education. The Foundation expects to select additional Scholars following the final three selection panels to be held this week.

Elwood was one of only two Tennesseans to receive the 2002 scholarship, and she is the second UTC student ever to receive the Truman. The first was Deborah Stoddard, a social work major who was awarded the scholarship in 1985.

Elwood will join the 2002 Truman Scholars on May 19 when they assemble for a week-long leadership development program at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, and receive their awards in a special ceremony at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, on May 26, 2002.

Dr. Gavin Townsend, UTC art professor and director of the University Honors Program, serves as the UTC faculty representative and conducts interviews for the Truman Scholarship. He says even when she was a freshman, Barbie had the makings of a Truman Scholar.

"Barbie was active as a representative on the UHON Student Council. She was passionate about community service projects sponsored by the UHON Council. I introduced Barbie to the idea of applying for a Truman while she was a sophomore, just to get her thinking about the possibilities, and was gratified when she came to me last Fall as a Junior to begin her Truman application," Townsend said.

In the spring of 1999 the University Honors Program at UTC recruited Barbie as one of sixteen freshmen awarded the most prestigious scholarship offered by the University, the William E. Brock, Jr. Scholarship, according to Townsend.

"To secure this award Barbie had to present outstanding standardized test scores, a fine high school GPA, great letters of recommendation, and a superior record of leadership. Then she had to endure multiple interviews with UTC honors faculty, staff, alumni and students, a two-hour literature review, and some grueling on-campus testing, " Townsend said.

Elwood’s interest in gerontology is personal; she says most members of her extended family are much older than she is. She says both of her parents are in the medical field, and they have also influenced her thinking.

The University Honors student has worked at Creekside Retirement Home near Hamilton Place Mall in Chattanooga, and has volunteered through church ministries at several nursing homes. Her work as a research assistant to Dana Moody, assistant professor of interior design in the department of human ecology, allowed Elwood the chance to explore housing issues for the elderly.

"Most of the people on the Truman committee were in their fifties and sixties, and they told me they found it encouraging to hear someone from my generation who is concerned about these issues. I feel that interior design and urban planning for the needy and elderly deserves more attention in our country. After all, by 2030, the elderly population will double," Elwood said.

Quick look at the 2002 Truman Scholars:

  • 52% are women
  • 15 attend a small four-year college or university
  • 45 attend a large four-year college or university
  • 4 attend a service academy
  • 44% attend a public institution
  • 25% have an African, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American heritage