Claremont McKenna College Student Named Truman Scholar
Claremont McKenna College junior Pieter van Wingerden has been awarded a Truman Scholarship, the nation’s most prestigious and competitive scholarship for aspiring public service leaders.
Van Wingerden studies Government and Asian Studies at CMC and is interested in political, economic, and military issues in the Indo-Pacific. He is CMC’s 20th Truman Scholar since the coveted scholarship was established by Congress in 1975.
Each Truman Scholar demonstrates outstanding leadership potential, a commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit sector, and academic excellence. Truman Scholars receive funding for graduate studies, leadership training, career counseling, and special internship and fellowship opportunities within the federal government.
Established as the living memorial to former U.S. President Harry S. Truman, and a national monument to public service, the Truman Scholarship carries the legacy of President Truman by supporting and inspiring the next generation of public service leaders.
This year, 62 new Truman Scholars were selected from 705 candidates nominated by 275 colleges and universities. They were recommended by 17 independent selection panels based on the finalists’ academic success and leadership accomplishments, as well as their likelihood of becoming public service leaders. Regional selection panels included distinguished civic leaders, elected officials, university presidents, federal judges, and past Truman Scholarship winners.
As he sat in his Government 150 classroom, van Wingerden received the joyful news from CMC President Hiram E. Chodosh, who arrived toward the end of class to make the surprise announcement, eliciting cheers from van Wingerden’s classmates.
Chodosh said he found the setting “fitting,” as “it doesn't take away from this outstanding individual accomplishment to recognize the investments that each of you make in one another peer-to-peer, and that your great faculty members, amazing program directors, and academic leadership team make in each of you.”
“Our entire CMC community comes together to celebrate Pieter’s Truman Scholarship,” Chodosh continued. “His commitment to CMC and public service are inspirational.”
A stunned van Wingerden demonstrated the poise he displays on the mound as a left-handed pitcher for the CMS baseball team. He quickly regathered his composure, and stood up to shake hands with Chodosh, CMC Director of Fellowship Advising Brian Davidson ’08, Prof. Jack Pitney, and Prof. Ellen Rentz, Associate Dean of the Faculty for Curriculum; who had all gathered to share in the celebration.
“I didn’t see this coming at all,” van Wingerden admitted. “It’s so kind of you all to be here. I really appreciate the recognition.”
Prof. Lisa Koch leads the “U.S. National Security Policy” (Govt. 150) course, where the announcement was made. Her experience as a Truman Scholar herself helped as she mentored van Wingerden through the application process. “I'm absolutely thrilled by the news,” she said. “Pieter is very well-prepared. He has the depth of policy knowledge, the acumen, and the desire to serve his country that are the hallmarks of a Truman Scholar. I’m just thrilled by his accomplishments.”
“We talked about national security policy all semester in class, so I think we all helped Pieter to prepare,” she added, sparking laughter from her students.
As an American who grew up abroad, van Wingerden has experienced firsthand the important role our nation’s foreign policy plays in protecting and promoting international peace and security. His time in Hong Kong during the 2014 and 2019 pro-democracy protests sparked his desire to enter public service. He carried his overseas experiences to campus, where he runs the Claremont chapter’s Alexander Hamilton Society, leading seminars on China’s grand strategy and cross-strait relations. He previously earned grants from the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies to research national security apparatuses in East Asia and U.S. arms sales policies toward Taiwan, as well as interning with the Project 2049 Institute and the U.S. Department of Defense. He has also served as a research assistant at the Rose Institute for State and Local Government.
After the announcement, Prof. Pitney, who is a member of CMC’s Truman Scholar committee, shared that he has been involved with the Truman Scholarships for the past 37 years. “The scholarship really gets to the whole mission of CMC of public leadership and public affairs,” he said.
A College-record of five Claremont McKenna College juniors were named finalists for the Truman Scholarship this year, and CMC was one of only two institutions with an unprecedented five finalists.
As for van Wingerden, Pitney said, “I look forward to his future tenure as Secretary of Defense.”
When van Wingerden emerged from class, he said he wanted to “thank a lot of people and institutions here at CMC: Brian Davidson, Professor Koch, Professor Terrill Jones, the Rose Institute and the Keck Center, as well as Coach Walk and the entire baseball team. From the day I stepped foot in Claremont, they have all supported me toward my pursuits in foreign policy and national security, and—more broadly—just wanting to serve my country, and do some good work in the public sector.”
Five to seven years after he completes graduate school, van Wingerden aspires to become a national security professional, specifically working with policymakers. “I cannot imagine a more rewarding career than joining the national security community that is tasked with collecting and synthesizing complex information for policymakers—chiefly the president,” he said. “Working with policymakers to keep Americans safe and advancing American values and interests would be a great honor but an even greater responsibility.”
Winning the Truman Scholarship “is really a great honor,” he continued. “And I’m thankful and appreciative of the faith and confidence that the Truman Foundation has put into me and their willingness to invest in me as someone who wants to enter the public sector.”
When asked, “What’s next?” van Wingerden, who hails from Edmonds, Washington, replied: “I gotta call my folks!”