TACOMA, Wash. – Alex Guzman ’20, of Minneapolis, and Erin Stewart ’20, of Seattle, have been named University of Puget Sound Lillis Scholars for fall 2016, in recognition of their extraordinary promise in academics and scholarship.
The Lillis Scholarship is Puget Sound’s most prestigious and competitive award honoring incoming students for their academic excellence. It covers tuition, room, and board for up to four years. Guzman and Stewart were chosen for their impressive academic records, passionate interest in ideas, and intellectual independence, and for their potential for pursuing excellence throughout their college years and thereafter.
The annual awards are funded by a generous gift from Gwendolyn H. Lillis P’05 and Charles M. Lillis P’05, made through The Lillis Foundation to Puget Sound’s One [of a Kind] comprehensive campaign, which raising $131.6 million last summer, exceeding its goal.
Finalists for the Lillis Scholarship are selected from a pool of about 290 applicants, who were among the 6,400 students applying to enroll at Puget Sound for fall 2016. Guzman and Stewart will become part of a cohort of 16 Lillis Scholars named since the program began making awards in 2008.
Alex Guzman (Minneapolis, Minn.)
Guzman is fascinated with science—yet it is often music that is on his mind. He writes his own music and, in high school, performed with the marimba band Bato Bato. The band specializes in multicultural music and performs every year at the Minnesota State Fair.
Guzman says that music allows him to fully engage in the world and “participate in a conversation that is not communicated through speaking, texting, or visuals, but through the language of music.”
At Breck School in Minneapolis, he was also involved in science, athletics, and acting, performing in school musicals, including The Drowsy Chaperone,Spamalot, and Rent. The summer before his senior year, Guzman researched the sustainability of University of St. Thomas’ aquaponics system, a system that combines aquaculture (raising marine animals in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. With his research partner, Guzman created a complex mathematical model to analyze the sustainability of using methane waste to power the system. The two studied fish feeding rates, waste production, and fish growth to determine the optimal size for a system that uses methane waste for electrical power. Their paper was a semifinalist in the 2015 Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology, a national science research competition for high school students.
As a member of his school’s environmental club, Guzman organized a milkweed planting event at Breck School to help revive the depleting monarch butterfly population in Minnesota. In his Lillis Scholarship essay, he raised questions about the so-called Anthropocene Epoch (age of the human) and mass extinction. He asked, “Should humans counteract the inevitable ecological revolution we have innately imposed? Is there a balanced relationship that humans can have with nature? Is the human reign of the Earth natural?”
An Eagle Scout troop leader and track and cross country runner, Guzman also volunteers at a Spanish-immersion school as a teacher’s assistant. In taking leadership roles, he applies the philosophy of the “servant leader”: putting the needs of others first and helping people perform at the optimum level.
Guzman aims to pursue biology, and environmental policy and decision making or biochemistry at Puget Sound.
Erin Stewart (Seattle, Wash.)
A true environmentalist and keen scientist, Stewart has no fear of getting her hands dirty. At Ingraham High School, in north Seattle, she helped establish a composting program after conducting a waste audit and finding that more than 90 percent of the lunch room’s waste was compostable. She worked with her school, district administration, and other members of the Environmental Club to get the materials to set up and monitor the program. To ensure the program’s continued success, she gave classroom presentations to educate other students about composting and recycling.
At Ingraham Stewart maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA, earned an International Baccalaureate diploma, took four AP courses, and was named a National Merit Scholar finalist.
Her love of science has already afforded her the opportunity to research the water quality of Puget Sound, in conjunction with University of Washington. Water quality is particularly important to Stewart as she swims competitively, teaches swimming, and serves as a lifeguard.
Curious about how consensus is reached in the field of science, she proposed in her Lillis Scholarship essay that “doubt” is actually a large part of the scientific process. “While persistent doubt may seem discouraging, for me it makes science more exciting,” she wrote. “It means that there will always be questions to ponder and discoveries to make, not only in the sciences, but in all fields of knowledge.
“Maybe scientific knowledge is less like the Grand Canyon than like a series of Jenga towers: we constantly add new pieces and remove old ones, and at times the foundation cannot withstand the weight of the new pieces, so the whole structure falls down—only to be rebuilt again, and better.”
Stewart aims to study biology, engineering, or environmental policy and decision making at Puget Sound. She will be a member of the Honors Program.
About the Lillis Scholar Program
The Lillis Scholar Program was established in 2007 through a generous gift made by The Lillis Foundation of Castle Rock, Colo., to recognize academic excellence and encourage intellectual independence. Gwen Lillis is chair of The Lillis Foundation, a member of University of Puget Sound’s board of trustees; and chair of the Board of Advisors at Lundquist College of Business, University of Oregon. Charles Lillis is former chair and chief executive of MediaOne, founding partner of LoneTree Capital Management, and chair of the board of trustees at University of Oregon. The Lillises are the parents of Puget Sound alumna Jessica Baker Isaacs ’05. Each year two Lillis Scholars are selected from the incoming freshman class.