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The University of Texas at Dallas, P.O. Box 830688, Richardson, Texas 75083-0688

News Release

News contact: Jon Senderling, UTD, (972) 883-2565, [email protected]
Jenni Bullington, UTD, (972) 883-4431, [email protected]

University Of Texas At Dallas Names Latest
Class Of Eugene McDermott Scholars

In Its Third Year, Program Lures Top Students
From Around the U.S. and As Far Away As India

RICHARDSON, Texas (April 4, 2003) - What do you get when you combine valedictorians, salutatorians, Eagle Scouts, National Merit Scholars, a pianist, a law school hopeful, a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a violinist, a Silver Award Girl Scout and a number of other intriguing ingredients? At The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), you get the latest class of Eugene McDermott Scholars - a group of extremely talented young men and women with a penchant for academic excellence and community activism.

Modeled after the prestigious Morehead Scholars program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, the UTD program was made possible by a $32 million gift - the largest in UTD's history - from Mrs. Margaret McDermott, wife of the late Eugene McDermott, one of the co-founders of Texas Instruments. McDermott and his TI co-founders, Cecil Green and the late Erik Jonsson, also founded the research institution that in 1969 became UTD.

In the two years since Mrs. McDermott's gift formally launched the initiative and the inaugural class was admitted for the fall semester of the 2001-02 academic year, the program has attracted 55 scholars, about half of them from the Dallas area. Eight have come from the Richardson Independent School District - five from Richardson High School alone.

Dr. Charles Leonard, the program's director, said that while the McDermott Scholars Program had attracted students from as far away as India, he was convinced that one of its strengths was UTD's ability to enroll top talent from local schools as well.

"It's sometimes harder for us to get a gifted student from Richardson to stay in Richardson than it is for us to attract a student from outside Texas. That's nothing against Richardson, where I live after all. I'm sure that's true of most universities and the cities or towns that they're part of," Leonard said. "For that reason, we're especially proud when we get those hometown Scholars. At the same time, we're delighted to have McDermott Scholars from across the United States and around the world."

As McDermott Scholars, the incoming class of 16 will have all educational expenses - including travel, room and board and supplies - covered for the next four years. Also included will be special programs such as an orientation trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, a visit to the nation's capital, an opportunity to study abroad, a chance to apply for internships at prominent corporations and research facilities and numerous other rewarding experiences.

McDermott Scholars are encouraged to participate in a wide range of educational and civic activities, and the first two classes already have risen to that challenge by "adopting" classes from Dallas Independent School District elementary schools. The Scholars mentor the children and help them with their class work, language skills and even some extracurricular activities.

Many of the 39 current Scholars already have taken advantage of opportunities to study and perform service abroad. One student currently is teaching chemistry and English in Uganda; another is studying art and technology at the University of Richmond in London, and another plans to travel to Honduras this summer to help build houses for the needy. Several other students have held research positions at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

"We strive to provide the students with as much exposure to the arts, technology, sciences and culture as possible," Leonard said. "When McDermott Scholars leave UTD to make their mark, we want them to have seen and experienced a great deal and to be well-rounded, upstanding citizens of the world."

Those selected as McDermott Scholars to begin in the 2003-04 academic year are as follows:


Clarisse Profilet, Bishop Lynch High School, Dallas, daughter of Michelle and Peter Profilet. Clarisse is captain of Bishop Lynch's mock trial team, is an accomplished pianist and writer and is a community volunteer. She aspires to become a lawyer and is the Texas Associate of Private and Parochial Schools State Champion in Literary Criticism.

William "Clint" Rohr, Jesuit Preparatory School, Dallas, son of William and Beth Rohr. Clint's current career goal is to become a psychiatrist. He tutors at a school for the dyslexic, has lettered in track and field, excelled at debate and is passionate about his hobby as a "techno" dance-music DJ. He has won many academic awards at Jesuit from science to theology and was a Welch Summer Scholar in chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin.

Mary "Caitlin" Dooley, Mayde Creek High School, Katy, daughter of William and Rosanna Dooley. Caitlin is Mayde Creek's salutatorian, is a Silver Award Girl Scout, a flute and piccolo player, a drum major and is active in the French club. Caitlin is interested in genetics and neuroscience.

John McLean III, Strake Jesuit Academy, Houston, son of John McLean Jr. and Kassandra McLean. John, who is second in his class at Strake Jesuit, is an Eagle Scout, a competitive swimmer, a water polo player and a Latin scholar.

Alyssa McMenamy, Lubbock High School, Lubbock, daughter of John and Susan McMenamy. Alyssa is interested in biomedical engineering and looks forward to a career as a research physician. She is a cross-country runner, an academic decathlon medalist and a leader of the French club.

Derrick Chen, Plano Senior High School, Plano, son of Chih-Tang Chen and Li-Young Lu. Derrick hopes to be a surgeon, is a competitive tennis player, an orchestra violinist and a chess player. He also is interested in arts and humanities at his high school and spends large amounts of his free time as a volunteer tutor.

Melissa Lent, J.J. Pearce High School, Richardson, daughter of the late Rosalyn Lent and Stephen Lent. Melissa's career goal is to be a clinical psychologist. She was active in high school as a swim team member and a trumpeter in Pearce's marching band. She also participated in French club and enjoys academic competitions.

Pamela Palagonia, Richardson High School, Richardson, daughter of Anthony and Erin Palagonia. Pamela is a member of Richardson's nationally ranked Mock trial team, a member of the drill team, secretary of her school's law review club and a member of the National Honor Society and National Spanish Honor Society.

Steve Petterborg, Richardson High School, Richardson, son of Larry and Mary Ellen Petterborg. Steve is a National Merit Finalist, an officer in his school's computer club and a member of the UIL Academics and Academic Decathlon teams. He also is co-president of Richardson's Multicultural Club.

Round Rock
Melissa Litwin, Round Rock High School, Round Rock, daughter of Stuart and Sandra Litwin. Melissa is a champion policy debater and president of her high school debate team. She lived two years in Japan while her father worked for a computer company and speaks Japanese and Spanish. She is working toward a career in foreign service and hopes eventually to earn a position with the State Department.

The Woodlands
Fern Yoon, The John Cooper School, The Woodlands, daughter of Wing Leung Yoon and Lee Chu Wee. Fern is an accomplished pianist, has earned a black belt in Taekwondo, is a Habitat for Humanity volunteer and a varsity tennis player. Her writing and her English test scores are extraordinary, even though English is not her native language (she came to Texas from Malaysia only two years ago).


St. Louis
Chris Affolter, Metro Academic and Classical Academy, St. Louis, Missouri, son of Richard and Katherine Affolter. Chris has been involved in the Young Scientist Program at Washington University in St. Louis. He is active in his church and choir, belongs to a rowing club and is an avid recycler, teaching earth science to youngsters, and is involved in other environmental causes.

Adam Raw, Metro Academic and Classical Academy, St. Louis, son of Timothy Raw and Carol Jo Entwistle. Adam takes community college classes that go beyond Metro's science curriculum and participated in a Harvard summer school program in philosophy and probability. He has donated nearly 700 hours to volunteer instruction at the St. Louis Science Center and the St. Louis Public Library. His extracurricular activities have included concert band, soccer, math club, French club and the fishing club.


John Keese, Manzano High School, Albuquerque, New Mexico, son of David and Michelle Keese. John is his school's valedictorian. He has been involved in student government all four years of high school, finishing as class president, and also is a varsity letterman on his school's soccer team.

Jonathan Lane, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, son of Joseph and Kathleen Lane. Jonathan, in addition to being a very gifted mathematics and science student, is a member of the All-State Symphonic band as a bass clarinet player, plays soccer and baseball and is an aficionado of baseball statistics.


Neha Chinai, St. Xavier's School, Mumbai, India, daughter of Kishore and Medha Chinai. Neha is a champion debater in English and Hindi, a student of Indian classical dance, a volunteer tutor, a writer for her student newspaper and volunteer for a soup kitchen for Indian homeless.

About UTD
The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor, enrolls more than 13,000 students. The school's freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores. The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs. For additional information about UTD, please visit the university's Web site at http://www.utdallas.edu/.

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This page last updated
August 03, 2013