Looking back, Oliver Myers can say wholeheartedly that the Meyerhoff Scholarship was of paramount importance to his education and career.
“You don’t consider the impact when you’re going through school, but thinking about it now, it weighs heavily,” says Myers, of the opportunities the Meyerhoff Scholarship gave him.
When about to enter his freshman year at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), Myers’ parents were well into retirement age. Myers, originally from Prince George’s County, Maryland, was denied financial aid but was awarded with a Meyerhoff Scholarship.
The Meyerhoff Scholarship Program at UMBC began in 1988 and stemmed from the generous support of Robert and Jane Meyerhoff. The program initially provided financial assistance, mentoring, advising, and research experience to undergraduate African American males who were committed to earning their PhDs in science, engineering, or math. In 1989, the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program enrolled their first class of 19 students, known as the M1 cohort.
Myers is a member of this first class of students. Now an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Clemson University, Myers says he was always a “geek at heart” and knew he wanted to be an engineer as early as the seventh grade. Receiving the Meyerhoff Scholarship cemented his plans and he went on to receive his BS, MS, and PhD from UMBC.
Myers says that being a member of the M1 cohort was a poignant experience for him.
“There’s a great responsibility to be successful and to make sure that those who come through the program after me are successful. I take a great deal of pride in the program, it’s more than just a scholarship program—this is a family, a responsibility, and something we take very seriously,” Myers said.
In addition to the benefits of not taking out loans or working an extra job to pay for an education, Myers became part of a family of Meyerhoff Scholars who have a vested interest in the success of the program and its students. Myers says that alumni and upperclassmen of the program often “pay it forward” by giving seminars to scholars, mentoring scholars, participating in the Meyerhoff Selection Committee, or simply by donating to the program.
Oliver Myers (far left in blue jacket) with M1 cohort and Robert and Jane Meyerhoff
The Meyerhoff Scholarship Program is now in its 28th year and is open to all high-achieving high school seniors who aspire to obtain a Ph.D or M.D./Ph.D. in math, science, computer science, or engineering and are interested in the advancement of minorities in the sciences and related fields. The UMBC Meyerhoff family has over 1300 members and over 1000 alumni across the country. Approximately 300 are currently enrolled in graduate and professional programs.
When asked why he believes the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program is so important, Myers notes that nowadays, there is a lot of talk about diversity and inclusion, but very little investment in programs that promote these ideas. To Myers, the Meyerhoff Program is changing the demographic of higher education not only at the student level, but at the professor and administration level, as well. As a result, the demographics of higher education better match the demographics of the United States and ensure that students of all backgrounds are successful in their chosen craft.
Today, Myers enjoys mentoring his own students in mechanical engineering at Clemson University, as well as conducting research on the characterization of smart materials and smart structure mechanics of systems ranging from nano- to macro-scales sizes. He thanks the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program for the support it provided him as a student.