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Mark Shwartz, News Service (650) 723-9296; e-mail:

Stanford junior awarded Truman scholarship for "making a difference"

Stanford undergraduate Donald H. Matsuda Jr. is among 80 students nationwide awarded Truman scholarships for 2001.

The mission of the Washington, D.C.-based Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation is to recognize college juniors with exceptional leadership potential and intellectual ability who are committed to careers in public service with the likelihood of "making a difference." The awards are designed to provide qualified students with financial support for graduate study and leadership training.

Matsuda, a junior majoring in human biology, was one of 592 candidates nominated from 303 colleges and universities this year. He will receive a $30,000 scholarship, $3,000 of which is for his senior year and $27,000 for two or three years of graduate study. He also will receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at several leading graduate institutions, as well as special internship opportunities within the federal government.

"I was quite shocked at being awarded this honor," Matsuda said. "I'm really thrilled about it."

In announcing his award, the Truman foundation cited Matsuda's passion for a career in public health administration.

"His true dedication to service was confirmed this past summer, when he developed and implemented a series of health insurance drives for immigrant children," the foundation noted.

Matsuda has served as the undergraduate director of Stanford's Asian Health Access Project and on the national board of United Students for Veterans' Health.

After he graduates next year, Matsuda plans to take a year off, then enter medical school, preferably in California.

"I'm hoping to get a joint M.D./Master of Public Education degree," he said. "I'd love to stay in this area and continue my volunteer work at Stanford and be close to my family in Sacramento. I've learned a lot from my maternal grandparents, who met and were married in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. A lot of the values I've gained from them are important to me."

Matsuda said he is writing a paper on health care in the internment camps, along with a longer thesis for neurobiology Professor Eric Shooter on neurotrophins proteins that are believed to encourage nerve cell growth in the central nervous system. In addition to his academic and community work, Matsuda also is editor-in-chief of the 2001 edition of the student yearbook, Stanford Quad.

"Donnie is an excellent example of someone who is willing to commit himself to the public," said Luis R. Fraga, associate professor of political science and Stanford's Truman scholarship faculty representative.

"He's very interested in transforming health care policy to provide greater access to underserved populations. It's a tribute to the university that we have students like him," Fraga added.

Scholars are nominated by their colleges and universities and undergo a rigorous selection process, both on campus and at the regional level, where they are interviewed by panels that include politicians, judges and academic leaders.

The final selection of Matsuda was made in March by a seven-member regional panel that included Stanford Graduate School of Business student Janet Friedl, a 1994 Truman scholar, and Joe Simitian, a member of the California State Assembly from Palo Alto.

The Washington, D.C.-based Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 to honor President Harry S. Truman. The activities of the foundation are supported by a special trust fund in the U.S. Treasury. More than 2,000 Truman Scholars have been elected since the first awards were given in 1977.

This year's scholars will assemble May 20 for a week-long leadership development program at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., and receive their awards in a special ceremony at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo., on May 27.


By Mark Shwartz

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