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An Eastern Kentucky University senior from Richmond is one of 59 Tillman Military Scholars nationwide.
Andrew Napier, a biology/pre-medical science major who served six years in the Army National Guard after graduating from Madison Central High School in 2006, will use the $9,000 scholarship to finish his studies at EKU this fall and prepare for medical school.
EKU is one of only 14 higher education institutions nationwide selected as a Tillman Military Scholar University for the 2012-13 academic year. College and university partners are chosen on the basis of their innovative services for military veterans and proven culture of community for military families.
The last two years, among the nation’s four-year colleges and universities, EKU has earned No. 1 and No. 2 national rankings, respectively, from Military Times EDGE magazine for its commitment to helping military veterans further their education. It was also recognized by G.I. Jobs magazine as a Military Friendly School in 2009, 2010 and 2011. In 2010, Eastern launched Operation Veteran Success, a series of initiatives designed to make the
Napier, who grew up in Somerset before moving to Richmond before his junior year of high school, served as a combat medic in eastern Afghanistan 2008-09, providing primary medical care for a platoon of combat engineers who cleared routes of IEDs. After combat missions were completed, he worked with a forward surgical team in a small trauma hospital. Napier achieved the rank of sergeant (E-5).
After high school, Napier attended EKU one semester prior to deployment. Upon his return, he enrolled at the University of Kentucky, but eventually returned to Eastern.
“(EKU has) greatly lowered my stress, which accelerated my civilian transition,” Napier said. “I also enjoy the large veteran presence on campus. This provides me with plenty of classmates that I can relate to.”
Earlier this year, EKU passed a milestone, with now more than 1,000 military veterans and their dependents enrolled at the university. Many of the veterans are taking advantage of EKU’s expanded online offerings, especially in the university’s Safety, Security and Emergency Management program.
Eastern was recently named a VetSuccess University by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and now has a full-time VA employee on staff to help veterans with their benefits issues.
The Tillman Military Scholars Program honors Pat Tillman, who left a successful professional football career to join the U.S. Army and who later died in combat in Afghanistan. Providing scholarships that cover tuition as well as other needs, such as housing and child care, the program supports the nation’s active and veteran service members and their spouses by removing financial barriers to completing an academic degree.
“Any sort of financial burden that I have experienced due to school will be completely eliminated by this scholarship,” said Napier, who plans to become a surgeon. “Just applying to medical school is a very expensive process, and travel for interviews must be covered as well.”
Each university partner in the Tillman program conducts outreach to its veteran and military spouse student population and actively participates in the Tillman Military Scholar selection process. Upon selection of Tillman Military Scholars on campus, each then supports the building of community among the recipients, strengthening their academic and personal experience.
In 2008, the Pat Tillman Foundation established the Tillman Military Scholars program to support educational opportunities for service members and military families by bridging the financial gaps left by the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.
Over the past four years, the Pat Tillman Foundation has awarded more than $3.2 million in scholarship funds to 231 Tillman Military Scholars pursuing education at every level from freshmen undergraduates to Ph.D. candidates. Overall, Tillman Military Scholars represent 71 different institutions across 34 states.
“We received 1,280 applicants this year and, with support from our selection committee, narrowed these applicants down to 59 outstanding candidates to join the fourth class of Tillman Military Scholars,” said Hunter I. Riley, director of programs at the Pat Tillman Foundation. “These Scholars represent leadership in the military, classroom and community and we’re proud to invest in their education and support them in making a positive impact into the future.”