Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

USF's Marshall Scholarship winner deflects the limelight

USF Honors College student Jean Weatherwax was the school’s first ever to earn the award.

Photo courtesy of USF

USF Honors College student Jean Weatherwax was the school’s first ever to earn the award.

TAMPA — Jean Weatherwax walked into class, and applause broke out.

A day earlier, the University of South Florida announced that Weatherwax, 22, had been awarded the school's first ever prestigious Marshall Scholarship — which will pay for her to study in London for two years.

The unassuming electrical engineering student blushed. She didn't expect a big hoopla over the award. Heck, she didn't even expect to get it.

That's Weatherwax, say those close to her. Humble is an understatement.

Ask her about the award, and she won't tell you that she's one of just a few dozen American college students who receive it each year — in honor of Gen. George C. Marshall's efforts to help rebuild Europe after World War II. Instead, she'll give credit to her teachers, her mentor, her research team, her parents, even USF itself.

"I think it must be good for the university," Weatherwax said. "They must get some publicity and recognition out of it."

She won't mention that this year she also won a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the country's highest honor for science undergraduates. Or that last summer she interned at a NASA research center in California.

"It's a little weird to be called and interviewed," Weatherwax said, "Because I don't feel that special."

The girl from Niceville, Fla., will next fall study at the Imperial College London with Dr. Pantelis Georgiou, whose biomedical research Weatherwax has admired from afar. She wants to help him as he develops the first artificial pancreas for treating Type 1 diabetes.

It's a personal pursuit for Weatherwax, whose father, Lee, has the disease. Her parents didn't know that was the plan until the award was announced.

"It's very sweet," said Lee Weatherwax, who works for Boeing in Charleston, S.C. Like his daughter, he deflected the spotlight. "I may benefit from possible future endeavors she works on. … But I think she's looking more bigger-picture, wanting to help a lot of people."

Her faculty mentor, USF engineering professor Stephen Saddow, said it's that care for others that sets Weatherwax apart. Plus, her humility.

"There are a lot of smart people who are arrogant or conceited," he said. "The fact that she doesn't take herself too seriously is one of her strengths."

Weatherwax came to Saddow after interviewing for the Marshall Scholarship, sure that she didn't get it. Saddow doubted that was true.

He wasn't surprised to find out he was right. "She just has a really intense desire to learn," he said.

She has been that way since she was born: curious and inquisitive, said Weatherwax's mother, Lisa, a freelance journalist. As a child, Weatherwax's favorite segment on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was the "how stuff works" bit. She never shied away from math problems.

"Her academic achievements and her engineering achievements in the research fields are stunning," her mother said. "But as her mother, what I'm most impressed by is, she's just got a heart of gold."

Weatherwax volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters. One of her proudest days was when her "little sister" suddenly showed an interest in learning, bringing books from the library to read together.

As a sophomore, she also started a student organization aimed at getting minority middle school students excited about studying science, math or engineering.

When she finishes her studies, she wants to keep researching — maybe someday have her own lab to find new medical devices to help people who are suffering.

"I just hope to make a small impact," she said.

Kim Wilmath can be reached at kwilmath@tampabay.com or 813-226-3337.

USF's Marshall Scholarship winner deflects the limelight 12/10/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 10, 2011 3:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Five ideas for cool summer snacks

    Cooking

    The 90-degree temperatures are not letting up anytime soon. We Floridians know to keep some cold treats on hand through September. Ice cream. Lemonade. Ice pops. Whether you're packing a beach cooler or preparing for a pool party, we've got you covered. Level up your summer snack game with these five refreshing …

    What’s not to like about a homemade ice cream sandwich? The thin chocolate cake bakes in about 10 to 12 minutes, and from there it’s all chilling out.
  2. U.S. Pacific commander: Remains of sailors found on USS John McCain

    Military

    SINGAPORE — The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet says a number of remains of Navy sailors were found in a compartment of the USS John McCain, a day after the warship's collision with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters left 10 sailors missing.

    The damaged port aft hull of USS John S. McCain, left, is seen while docked next to USS America at Singapore's Changi naval base on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017 in Singapore. The focus of the search for 10 U.S. sailors missing after a collision between the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters shifted Tuesday to the damaged destroyer's flooded compartments. [Associated Press]
  3. Florida education news: Solar eclipse, gender gap, new schools and more

    Blogs

    TOTAL ECLIPSE: More than 8,000 Hernando County students skip school after their school district gives them excused absences for the day. Students who …

    Students at Bayonet Point Middle School observe the solar eclipse Monday through their special eclipse glasses.
  4. Epilogue: Martin Giles a man of few, but strong, words for WFLA-AM 970

    Obituaries

    As the story goes, his higher-ups at the Misawa Air Base in Japan were clear with their edict to Martin Giles: It was only the mid-1950s, not far enough away from World War II for the Japanese to be trusted.

    Martin Giles, a longtime radio news anchor for WFLA-AM 970, died last week at the age of 80.