Iowa State University

News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777



Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778,

Kim Kindvall, ISU Foundation, (515) 294-5779,

Profiles of three current Hixson Scholars

Michael Miller

There were never more than 35 students in one of Michael Miller's classes at Pocahontas Community High School. And he rarely saw the four friends from home who started Iowa State when he did. Freshman year--with the large lecture classes and thousands of new faces--was a big adjustment. Especially for an 18-year-old who had lost his mother only months before.

"The Hixson Program helped me build some connections, so I could make new friends," said Miller, the 2007 Hixson Scholar from Rolfe (population 590) in Pocahontas County.

Miller's parents divorced when he was in the 8th grade. He and his brother and sister lived with their mother, who had a slight mental disability.

"It prevented her from doing some things, so we helped a lot around the house," he said.

A friend who had received the Hixson Scholarship encouraged Miller to apply.

"A couple of weeks after I sent in my application, my mom got a really bad sickness and was in the hospital for seven days before passing away," he said.

"I don't know if I'd have been able to come to college without the Hixson Scholarship. It gave me the chance to come to Iowa State. That really meant a lot," he said.

"And the program has given me a lot, too. I actually didn't do so well in my first tests and I almost went home. The Hixson Program helped me get things together with different workshops to help with academic success skills--like time management, note taking, study tips, financial planning. It has really helped me do well."

Miller, who graduates in 2011, majors in history education with a minor in political science and with endorsements in economics and coaching. He wants to teach high school and coach track and cross country. And he wants to stay in Iowa.

Leah Hirsch

Leah Hirsch always knew she'd go to college. But when the time came, she wasn't sure how. She and her family had a very rough few years.

"My family had been through a lot," said Hirsch, the 2006 Johnson County Hixson Scholar.

"What started everything off was when my dad was diagnosed with depression. He attempted suicide. That was really tough on my family."

Then Hirsch started dealing with her own depression. And in her junior year of high school in Iowa City, she was diagnosed with ADD.

"Until then, I'd been doing okay in school, but not as well as I could have been doing," she said. After I was diagnosed and got treated, things got tons better."

At least until Christmas of Hirsch's senior year.

"We had a fire in my house the day after Christmas," she said. "Luckily we were visiting family in Dubuque and no one was hurt, but the house was pretty much destroyed."

The family stayed in a rented house for five months until their house was rebuilt.

Now the Hixson Scholarship has enabled Hirsch to pursue her dream of becoming an occupational therapist.

"A friend was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and couldn't use her right hand," Hirsch said. "She told me how an occupational therapist helped her relearn ways to do things like button buttons. I thought that was something I would like doing."

The junior in child, adult and family services will soon apply to graduate schools in Texas and Wisconsin to pursue her dream.

"Because getting to college was kind of hard for all of us Hixson Scholars, I see that a lot of us really have a drive to be here. And we genuinely appreciate being here."

Henry Wang

Henry Wang's parents owned and operated a Mason City restaurant for 15 years. Then it all fell apart. The high school sophomore's parents divorced, the restaurant closed and his father moved to Taiwan.

Wang's mother went to work full time to support her son. She told him not to worry about money--she wanted him to have the "best high school experience possible."

As his world turned upside down, Wang continued as an officer in student government and several clubs. He even managed to maintain his 3.9 GPA. And he worked two jobs.

Wang, who wanted to be the first in his family to attend a four-year university, felt badly about how hard his mother was working.

"I really wanted to take the stress off my mom so she wouldn't have to support me through college, so I started applying for many scholarships," Wang said.

"A previous Hixson Scholar came to our school and talked about the program. Then my counselor handed me an application," he said.

"I would've found a way to go to college, but the Hixson Program has been great. It's made my college experience better," he said.

Wang said the Hixson class required of freshman Hixson Scholars provided great help for taking the leap from high school to college.

"Some of the people I met in that class are still my best friends," he said. "The tutoring services helped me keep my grades up. And there was help for getting involved in activities and events."

Wang is the newest member of ISU's co-ed cheer squad. He's also a Cyclone Aide, and in Dance Marathon and Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. A double major in art and design and apparel merchandising, Wang wants to work in visual merchandising or as a creative director and stylist for a magazine.


$7 million more to Hixson program

Lied Foundation Trust commits additional $7 million to Iowa State scholarships and program