BOZEMAN — Fifty high school graduates from across Montana have been selected for their effort and potential as the sixth class of Montana State University’s Hilleman Scholars Program, which is named after Maurice Hilleman, one of the state’s most influential, but least known, native sons.

“We at Montana State University are so proud of all 50 of these Montana students,” said MSU President Waded Cruzado. “We know they have the potential, like Maurice Hilleman, to change the world, and we’re delighted to invest in them. We can’t wait to see what they do.”

Hilleman was born on a farm near Miles City in 1919. His twin sister died during childbirth and his mother died two days later. He was raised by an uncle and aunt and, as a child, helped the household make ends meet by raising chickens.

Hilleman had been planning to go to work at a local department store in Miles City when his brother told him that MSU – then Montana State College – offered scholarships. Hilleman applied, won a scholarship and graduated in 1941.

Over the next 43 years, Hilleman became the world’s leading vaccinologist, developing more than 40 important vaccines for human and animal health. Of the 14 vaccines commonly given to children, Hilleman developed nine. Among them are vaccines for measles, mumps, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningitis and pneumonia. He spent the majority of his career at Merck & Co., which recently estimated that his vaccines have been given to more than 750 million people worldwide.

When Hilleman died in 2005, scientists quoted in his New York Times obituary credited him with saving more lives than any other person in the 20th century.

In honor of Hilleman’s legacy, MSU started the Hilleman Scholars Program for Montana residents in 2016. Each year, Hilleman Scholars are selected based on personal essays, nomination letters, grades and financial need. But paramount in the selection process is evidence of significant academic, leadership and career potential.

“As we think about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to recall Dr. Hilleman was instrumental in thwarting the impact of another pandemic in 1957," said Carina Beck, Vice Provost of the Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success at MSU. "The world needs more Dr. Hillemans to solve problems to advance our communities and economy through leadership and consequential efforts."

Beck added this work does not happen without partnerships. She extended thanks to the Hilleman family, the program’s investors and inspirational speakers, Montana K-12 educators, Hilleman Scholars families and the faculty and staff at MSU who make a difference each day to help advance the future of Montana.

Hilleman Scholars are eligible for up to $6,500 in academic support for their first year and $4,000 per year thereafter. If they make satisfactory academic progress and demonstrate exemplary commitment to the program in their first three years, scholars can become eligible for an additional $3,000 at the end of their junior year to apply toward a study abroad experience. Hilleman Scholars are expected to graduate in four years.

The MSU Hilleman Scholars Program begins with a month-long Summer Success Academy on the MSU campus. The intensive program, administered through the Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success, is designed to boost college-level math, writing and critical thinking skills and to equip students with effective learning strategies for the coming academic year.

Academic support continues for Hilleman Scholars throughout their years at MSU. Beyond access to some of the university’s top faculty, this includes tutoring, mentoring, advising and more. By their third year, Hilleman Scholars are expected to pass this support on by serving as mentors and tutors to new students.

During the school year, Hilleman Scholars must engage in 10 hours per week of activities designed to prepare them to be a successful student, intern or employee. The focus of these experiences shifts each year as the students progress through college.

This year’s Hilleman Scholars come from 31 communities across Montana. The scholars are listed below by name and hometown:

  • McKenna Arvidson, Conrad
  • Jason Bay, Corvallis
  • Adam Bigley, Kalispell
  • Cody Bohrman, Belgrade
  • Payton Cantu, Ballantine
  • Erich Dale, Big Arm
  • Marley Davis, Bozeman
  • Mia Davis, Anaconda
  • Estavia Diazpainter, Billings
  • Vinece Dichos, Billings
  • Aleisha Dutton, Billings
  • Jesse Fabian, Livingston
  • Lou Falconer, Bozeman
  • Tabitha Flemings, Helena
  • Sam Fowler, Arlee
  • Baylee Furthmyre, Great Falls
  • Noah Gardner, Corvallis
  • Hannah Guardipee, Billings
  • Mya Hadley, Plevna
  • Ethan Hallos, Kalispell
  • Kimberly Hegg, Billings
  • Robert Hughes, Libby
  • Shelby Jagelski, Billings
  • Kennah Jensen, Lavina
  • Tanner Jessop, Pinesdale
  • Jacob Jones, Columbus
  • Jaiden Klemundt, Missoula
  • Grace Lee, Livingston
  • Dreyden Lucero, Billings
  • Jessica Maney, Havre
  • Carsen McQueen, Billings
  • Aliyah McGee, Billings
  • Tanner Meier, Columbus
  • Jonathan Missman, Columbia Falls
  • Karla Munoz, Belgrade
  • Austin Nevin, Big Timber
  • Francisco Paredes, Fairview
  • Emily Pease, Lodge Grass
  • Jess Pepion, Polson
  • Kennedy Praast, Stevensville
  • Richard Quihuis, Livingston
  • Keilen Rausch, Libby
  • Catherine Reiner, West Yellowstone
  • Richard Role, Columbia Falls
  • Zoe Seaford, Lewistown
  • Elizabeth Taylor, Cut Bank
  • Hunter Webber, Corvallis
  • Camrynn Wells, Bozeman
  • Simon Work, Bozeman
  • Arissa Yellowrobe, Hardin

More information about the Hilleman Scholars Program is available on the program’s website: montana.edu/hillemanscholars.

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