Hilleman Scholars Include Cunningham, Fourstar
This year’s group of 53 Hilleman Scholars come from 29 communities across Montana, including many small
Fifty-three high school graduates from across Montana have been selected for their effort and potential as the eighth class of Montana State University’s Hilleman Scholars Program, which is named after Maurice Hilleman, one of the state’s most influential native sons and an MSU graduate.
Area students honored included Mary Cunningham of Fort Peck and Jerome Fourstar of Wolf Point.
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 planned to work at a local department store, but 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 who were 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, MSU 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 achievement, leadership and career potential.
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 may 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.
“We are so proud to host 53 students from communities
across Montana,” said Carina Beck, vice provost of the Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success at MSU. “They are entrusting MSU and the Hilleman Scholars Program to advance their futures, and we couldn’t be prouder to support their educational journey.”
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.