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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI student wins Truman scholarship -- One of only 77 scholars chosen from 609 candidates

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KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 5, 2004 -- University of Rhode Island junior Brendan Franzoni of North Kingstown has compiled an impressive resume in his short 25 years. He just earned another imposing entry.

The Trenton, N. J., native has been selected as a 2004 Truman Scholar. The highly competitive scholarship, named after Harry S. Truman, the nation's 33rd president, is awarded on the basis of leadership potential, intellectual ability, and the likelihood of making a difference.

The URI student is one of only 77 scholars chosen from 609 candidates nominated by 300 colleges and universities. The scholarship provides Franzoni $2,000 for his senior year at URI and $24,000 for graduate study.

Before enrolling at URI in 2002, Franzoni served as a diplomatic security guard in the U.S. Marines Corps protecting American presidents and dignitaries. He traveled to 15 countries and lived in three of them: Belgium, Japan, and Bahrain.

Last spring, the political science and history double major, won a David L. Boren Undergraduate Scholarship that funded his study of Russian last summer at the International Institute of Russian Language and Culture at Tver State University, Tver Russia.

At the time, Franzoni was considering a security career. He changed his mind, realizing that security work was not only tumultuous, but also isolating. Russia, he realized, was a frontier - mob driven and chaotic. The URI student was visiting Moscow when Chechen terrorists and innocent concertgoers were bombed. By then, he had also met his girlfriend, now fiancée, Pam Costa, a social worker who graduated from URI in 2001.

Costa informed him that only 44 percent of teen-age girls, ages 15 to 19, finish high school and that a teenage pregnancy all too often signaled a lifetime of financial struggle. "There's not much preventive education," the URI student says. "Nor is there much opportunity for continued education."

Franzoni has a list of strategies and models that could help reverse the national teen pregnancy rate of 10 percent. One idea is a national ad campaign similar in structure to the "The More You Know" in which celebrities make a pertinent point. Franzoni would also use MTV's "True Life" model to reach the appropriate age group.

But first things first. After he graduates from URI next year, Franzoni hopes to enroll at Georgetown Law. With law degree in hand, he plans to get back into a Marines uniform to become a Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer. Franzoni credits the military with providing him the structure and discipline to succeed. "JAG officers get immediate and plenty of law experience," Franzoni says.

After JAG, Franzoni plans to set his sites on holding public office. But that’s for later. Right now, the URI student is basking in his Truman award.

"Brendan combines deep personal discipline and gentle leadership skills in every area of his life, from his Marine Corps service to his classroom discussions, from his charity drives collecting children's toys to his organization of a youth soccer league in Tver, Russia," says Cheryl Foster, professor of philosophy and associate director of URI’s Honors Program. "He transforms every activity or organization of which he is a part and does so with grace, integrity and good humor. His aspirations and abilities made him an ideal Truman Scholar."

Franzoni recalls that Foster taught his first class at URI. "She saw something in me and pushed," he says. For that, he is forever grateful.

In fact, his experiences at URI have been positive. "URI is just small enough for great interaction," he says, recalling sitting in class and being surprised by a cake and a group of well wishers including Pam and Foster who announced that he had won the Truman.
"How many colleges are there where both the president of university, Dr. Carothers, and the head of the Honors Program, Galen Johnson, come to celebrate your success? It's incredible."