Former tank platoon leader, Army Ranger named ASU Tillman scholars
Two Arizona State University veterans and graduate students at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College are among 60 service members, veterans and military spouses selected nationwide as Tillman Scholars for 2015.
The Pat Tillman Foundation named former U.S. Army soldiers Jameson Lopez, an education policy and evaluation doctorate student, and Joseph Wheaton, a master’s student majoring in secondary education, on Tuesday as two of the scholars who will benefit from the more than $1.7 million in scholarships awarded to this year’s class.
“We’re very proud to have two of our ASU students selected as Tillman Scholars this year,” said Steve Borden, director of ASU’s Pat Tillman Veterans Center. “Jameson and Joseph exemplify what it means to be scholars. They have an unyielding drive for academic learning, and combined with their combat veteran experience they seek to make a positive difference in the world around them.”
Lopez is a Native American from the Kwat’san (Quechan) Tribe in Fort Yuma, California. He served as an Army officer from 2008 to 2012 and led a tank platoon in Iraq, coordinating combat missions with Kurdish security forces during Operation New Dawn. With his military experience and education, Lopez aims to serve as a leader in the education field and increase access to higher education for Native American communities.
“I am extremely humbled and grateful by the fact that I was selected as a scholar,” Lopez said. “To be amongst such a group is an honor, and it challenges me to continually be the best return for those who have invested so much into my life.”
Lopez is part of a strong tradition of Native Americans serving in the military: According to the Department of Defense, more Native Americans have volunteered for military service per capita than any other ethnic groups since the American Revolution.
“I have a lot of family who have fought in wars,” Lopez said. “I am part of my tribe’s warrior tradition that is carried amongst many other tribes, and therefore no different than my ancestors who have fought in wars before me.”
A Maine native and 2014 Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law graduate, Wheaton served as a sniper squad leader for the Army’s 2nd Ranger Battalion during his nearly six years on active duty.
“Looking at those selected before me is humbling,” he said. “I have impossibly big shoes to fill.”
Wheaton, who is also a Teach for America alumnus, said the scholarship will help fund the last year he has left on his master’s degree. He plans to apply his education to address education policy and lead change within the educational system.
Founded in 2008, the Tillman Scholars program supports U.S. active-duty service members, veterans and military spouses by investing in their higher education. The scholarship program covers direct study-related expenses, including tuition and fees, books and living expenses, for scholars pursuing undergraduate, graduate or post-graduate degrees as full-time student at a public or private, U.S.-based accredited institution. The selection process is highly competitive with up to 60 Tillman Scholars chosen annually.
As a university partner with the Pat Tillman Foundation, ASU takes part in the selection process, said Christian Rauschenbach, program manager at the Pat Tillman Veterans Center. This year’s committee had the tough job of choosing eight semifinalists out of 70 ASU students who applied; those eight semifinalists were entered into the national pool out of which the Tillman Foundation chose its 60 scholars.
“Joseph and Jameson’s applications definitely shone through as part of this process, and we are glad to see the Tillman Foundation confirm that,” Rauschenbach said. “My congratulations goes out to them both.”