People of SU / Society / Justice and Law

Truman Scholar!

Written by Dean Forbes

April 21, 2015

students stroll on the upper deck of Lemieux Library at dusk

Junior Olivia Smith is the recipient of a prestigious academic award.

Junior Olivia Smith is a 2015 Truman Scholar. The prestigious academic award, from the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, is given to undergraduates who are preparing for careers in public service.

Truman Scholarship winners receive a $30,000 scholarship toward graduate school and the opportunity to participate in professional development programs to help prepare them for careers in public service leadership. Smith, a political science and Spanish double major and Sullivan Scholar, hopes to attend the University of Chicago Law School and ultimately to return to Washington where she aspires to serve as a King County prosecuting attorney.  

Seattle University is among the most elite schools in the country for the number of Truman Scholars it produces, a total of 15 to date. Smith is the only Washington college student to receive the award in 2015. 

President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., shared the Truman news to Smith in a surprise visit to a Sullivan Leadership meeting she was attending.  

"When he made the announcement, I immediately began to cry because I was excited, relieved, in disbelief and thankful," said Smith. "As they read the official announcement I bowed my head, closed my eyes and gave glory to God, because I am blessed, truly blessed, to have received such an opportunity."

Smith is a graduate of Seattle's Cleveland High School. At SU, she has been named to the Dean's list every year and is also a member of the women's rowing team. Outside of class, she serves as a youth ambassador and motivational speaker in the greater Seattle community and works as an intern with state Congressman Adam Smith.  She has done community outreach with the United Way of King County, Seattle Social Venture Projects Fast Pitch and the One Equal Heart Foundation and as an intern with the League of Education.

"Olivia is extraordinarily poised, confident yet humble. She is a remarkable young woman who successfully juggles academics, community service and athletics," said Bridget Hiedemann, professor of economics and the university's Truman Scholar faculty representative. 

Lindsay Leeder, nursing instructor and director of the Sullivan Leadership Program, is similarly impressed: "Olivia lives out her Jesuit education, consistently finding ways to integrate leadership, service and scholarship to be an agent of change in her community."

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was created by Congress in 1975 to be the nation's living memorial to President Harry S. Truman. The Foundation has a mission to select and support the next generation of public service leaders. The Truman Award has become one of the most prestigious national scholarships in the United States.  

Annually, candidates for the Truman Scholarship go through a rigorous, multi-stage selection process. In 2015, there were 688 candidates for the award nominated by nearly 300 colleges and universities. The 58 Truman Scholars will receive their awards in a ceremony May 24 at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Washington, D.C.