Humble on His Pedestal
Truman and Marshall scholarship winner reflects on his accomplishment and prepares for the future
Chris Stephens has reached a point in his life he never expected to reach.
Stephens, an Oklahoma State University agricultural economics graduate from Chickasha has received two of the nation's most prestigious scholarships ó the 1998 Harry S Truman and the 1999 British Marshall scholarships.
Attending Oklahoma State University was always in Chris Stephens' plans. Earning honors like the outstanding senior award and the 1998 Harry S. Truman and 1999 British Marshall scholarships were thrilling surprises.
(Todd Johnson Photo)
The Truman scholarship, developed in the 1970s, pays each recipient $30,000 in graduate school tuition. About 600 students apply each year and only 75 to 80 receive scholarships.
The Marshall scholarship gives the recipient the opportunity to study in England for two years. Established in the 1950s, 40 students receive the scholarship out of 800 applicants annually.
These two scholarships have placed Stephens on a pedestal above his expectations. However, he merely calls it luck. His "luck" is providing him with the opportunities of a lifetime.
Stephens said he started thinking about the Truman scholarship when he was still a senior at Chickasha High School. At that time, Wesley Holley, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources assistant dean, knew Stephens from his participation in public speaking contests and various activities through the National FFA Organization.
Holley asked Stephens to contact him when he got to OSU to begin preparations for the scholarship process.
Upon his arrival, Stephens took part in many campus activities and became a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity. He said no one pushes him to succeed more than he pushes himself.
Stephens is pleased Holley and Bob Graalman, director of the office of scholar and development recognition, are involved in the process of student scholar preparation. Stephens said the applications and interviews became a consuming process that developed into a craving. Because of his accomplishments, Stephens has been asked to help students prepare for their scholarship interviews.
In October, Stephens will fly to London with other Marshall scholarship recipients to begin reaping the rewards of his accomplishments. He hopes to study land economy, which is a combination of agricultural economics, environmental law, and water and land use policies. It takes one year to achieve a master's degree, but because of regulations, students can only receive one master's degree per school. Stephens will try to transfer to another school and get a second master's degree.
"I am trying to prepare myself by looking on the Internet, and I have been talking on the phone to students from the U.S. who are already in England," Stephens said.
While Stephens will spend the next two years in school, the different environment and society will provide him with somewhat of a two year break. When he returns to the United States, he plans to use the money from the Truman scholarship to pay for law school.
Stephens said he believes his peers and the people around him now look at him differently.
"The standards people expect from me are a little intimidating, but the opportunity never loses its excitement."
Stephens was caught a little off guard when asked what his parents would say about him.
"I would hope they would say they were proud of my accomplishments, but that they were most proud of me for being the same old Chris I have always been, and that nothing has gone to my head, that I am still humble."
By Shayla Givens