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Thomas Emanuel named USD's 15th Truman Scholar

VERMILLION, S.D. -- How many students can say they’re educating campus while they’re getting educated at college? Thomas Emanuel certainly can. Emanuel, a University of South Dakota junior, was chosen as USD’s 15th Harry S. Truman Scholar for exemplifying outstanding leadership. Emanuel has not only gotten involved in campus programs while at USD – he’s started some of his own and with great success.

Emanuel will utilize the scholarship to pursue graduate studies in the field of Peace and Conflict Studies with an emphasis on nonviolence and peace education. He is The U’s ninth Truman Scholar in 12 years. As a recipient of the Truman Scholarship, he will receive a $30,000 award from the Truman Scholarship Foundation for graduate study.

“Politics are involved, of course, but this is bigger than elections, than Republicans and Democrats,” said Emanuel, who was born and raised in Deadwood, S.D. and is majoring in both German and political science at USD. “This is about how we view our fellow human beings and how we settle our differences with one another, no matter what our personal politics look like.”

Emanuel is invested in educating young people on the consequences of violence and how to resolve conflicts peacefully. End Violence Everywhere Now (EVEN) is an outgrowth of the organization, Students Against vViolence Yes! (SAVVY) which is dedicated to fighting domestic violence on college campuses. EVEN is a community education course he developed and addresses the history and practice of nonviolence in Vermillion.

“I used SAVVY’s experiential community-building format to develop a class on the history, theory and practice of nonviolence,” admitted Emanuel, who is currently in Jena, Germany studying German as a Second Language at Friedrich-Schiller-Universität until August. “Peace is like language. As a social species, we have a natural proclivity for both. However, a natural proclivity is not enough. We have to be taught to read and we have to be taught how to be peaceful in order for our innate capacities to flourish.

“And I believe that the way to peace lies through the practice of nonviolence,” he added.

It’s one thing to describe Emanuel as proactive, but it’s another to say that his influence is positively affecting students’ perspectives on political typecasting and the teaching of nonviolence. Even his own leadership skills defy typical stereotypes.

“Tom is a leader in every sense of the word,” said Eric Jepsen, Ph.D., assistant professor, USD Department of Political Science. “He is quite capable of running organizations and also in grooming younger students to be leaders and building organizational capacity. His impact on the culture of this campus, in terms of leadership and service, cannot be overstated.”

His leadership style, Emanuel explained, is just being himself. In fact, his own personal feelings as well as a developing sense of identity helped shaped some of the other organizations he founded or helped found at USD, including USD Socialists, Vermillion Vegetarians and the alternative news magazine ALT-V.

“Living where I do, I have at times felt isolated in my beliefs and my lifestyle,” said Emanuel, who described himself as a Libertarian Socialist, an eco-conscious vegetarian and a nonviolent activist. “So it’s tremendously important for me, and for others I think, to have these groups, to know that ‘I am not alone.’ Knowing that you are not alone can give you the courage to claim your identity, to say ‘this is who I am and I am proud of it.’”

Emanuel admits that he came to USD “almost by accident” but the deciding factor was ultimately a scholarship he received through the political science department – the first ever Dorothy Schieffer Memorial Scholarship in the summer of 2008. Ironically, Emanuel is the second recipient of USD’s Dorothy Schieffer Memorial Scholarship to receive a prominent national scholarship. Jessie Milstead of Hartford, S.D., was a 2010 Boren Scholar.

“In April, right before I graduated, I put in a last-minute application to USD,” recalled the son of Rose McCarty Emanuel, Karl Emanuel and stepson of Charlie Weir. “The clincher for me was the Dorothy Schieffer Memorial Scholarship. Four years of school, all-expenses paid plus support for a semester abroad? Yes, please.

“But now that I’ve spent almost three years in Vermillion, I’ve come to realize that however much I may have wanted to escape, South Dakota has its advantages.”

In 1975, Congress established the Truman Scholarship Foundation as the federal memorial to Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States. To date, 2,790 Truman Scholars have been chosen since 1977. Sixty students from 54 colleges and universities throughout the United States were selected as 2011 Truman Scholars on the basis of leadership potential, intellectual ability, and likelihood of “making a difference.” The 2011 class of scholars will assemble at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., on May 17 for a leadership development program. They will receive their awards in a special ceremony at the Truman Library, which is located in Independence, Mo., on May 22.

A photo of Tom is available for download at


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 78 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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Hanna DeLange
USD News