This year Georgetown has joined the ranks of 14 other American universities after officially partnering with the Pat Tillman Foundation in order to offer select student veterans a scholarship as part of the Tillman Military Scholarship Program.
“The goal [of the program] is to help our current generation of military veterans excel in their efforts to become leaders and serve our communities and our nation,” Georgetown Veterans Office Coordinator David Shearman said.
Tillman was a NFL safety for the Arizona Cardinals, before enlisting with the United States Army Rangers in 2002, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He served two tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan before dying by friendly fire on his second deployment to Afghanistan. Tillman was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action.
Established soon after his death in 2004, the Pat Tillman Foundation has played a major role in investing in military veterans and their spouses through supporting their education.
“If you think about it, the goals the Pat Tillman Foundation has for its TMS program—academic excellence, character, leadership and service to the nation and the community — go hand in hand with Georgetown’s Jesuit values,” Shearman said. “So it makes sense that Georgetown and the Tillman Foundation would want to support each other in those goals.”
Georgetown’s partnership with the Pat Tillman Foundation reflects an increasing trend of veterans becoming more interested in pursuing their academic goals at the highest level.
“Veterans have been traditionally underrepresented at the nation’s top undergraduate private schools, but that is beginning to change,” Georgetown University Student Veterans Association President Zach Zimmerman (MSB ’14) said. “Veterans are becoming more interested in schools they previously thought were unattainable to them, which is probably why Georgetown is trying to make the financial process more accommodating to this new demographic of applicant.”
The Pat Tillman Foundation has provided a total of $4.6 million to 290 military students from 85 different universities. The foundation hopes to help potential leaders cultivate their skills and intellect with this financial aid.
“The Tillman partnership can help veterans take advantage of increased opportunities without the possibility of accruing upwards of $100,000 in debt,” Zimmerman, who served in the Marine Corps from 2006 to 2010 in Iraq and Afghanistan, said.
Beyond the financial aspect, the scholars program provides diverse summits, workshops and community service activities that instill a spirit of leadership and service in participants.
“This scholarship is not just about the money,” Shearman said. “It’s about investing in a diverse group of leaders who are committed to serving others.”
Each year, 60 students are selected as Tillman Military Scholars from the thousands that apply. Georgetown anticipates a significant number of veteran students will apply.
“The response I’ve received so far indicates that we will have a very strong applicant pool of Georgetown students this year,” Shearman said.
University individuals have applied for the scholarship since it opened in 2009, but this year marks the formalization of the university’s relationship with the foundation. Six Georgetown students have been designated TMS scholars in the past. Among the requirements for university partners is that the institution must have an active veteran student organization, support services designed for veterans and provide counseling, psychological and disability services.
In 2012, David Dixon (GRD ’15), Alex Brown (MBA ’13) and Brandon Stone (LAW ’15) received Tillman scholarships for Georgetown studies, while alumni Dan Feehan (SFS ’05), Peter Koziol (GRD ’06) and Kathleen Merkl (SFS ’05) won scholarships to fund degrees at other institutions. Dixon felt his graduate education would be beneficial to his work in the Marine Corps.
“Although service members swear on their lives to defend the Constitution, many don’t know the fundamentals of our representative republic,” Dixon, a doctoral candidate in political science, said in a Georgetown press release.
This partnership strengthens Georgetown’s efforts to help veteran students achieve their academic goals and learn leadership skills in a civilian setting.
“This partnership with the Tillman Military Scholars program is a good indicator that Georgetown has made significant progress in providing support to veteran and military students in the last several years,” Shearman said.
Georgetown also has plans to create a Veterans Resource Center on campus, which will provide more staff and resources to assist veterans.
“The university’s administration has been an incredible partner for GUSVA and has been receptive all of our veteran initiatives,” Zimmerman said. “This partnership is Georgetown not only saying ‘we accept veterans’ but ‘we want veterans.’”