While most other students his age were enjoying freshman orientation and hanging out with fellow students, Nathan Segal ’08 was focusing on the concerns of a group that often goes unnoticed by the younger generation: the elderly.
As Yale’s only Truman Scholar for the 2006-’07 year, Segal will receive $30,000 for graduate study as well as priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some graduate schools. Segal, who transferred to Yale from Stanford before his junior year, took one year off before college to establish a program in Florida that educates senior citizens about how to access healthcare.
This year, the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation awarded scholarships to 65 current college juniors, selected from 585 nominees on the basis of leadership potential and academic achievement. Yale nominated four students. All winners are planning to pursue careers in government or the nonprofit sector.
Linda De Laurentis, fellowship director of Yale’s Office of International Education and Fellowship Programs, said the rigorous qualifications needed to be named a Truman Scholar help identify students who will make a difference in the future.
“They’re looking for demonstrated leadership, they’re looking at students with strong academic records who would be able to get into the top graduate schools, and they’re looking for people who have demonstrated a serious commitment to public service through any number of types of activities,” she said. “These could be community service-related activities, government internships, working with advocacy groups, nonpartisan political activities or even partisan political activities.”
Segal, a history of science, history of medicine major, postponed his Stanford matriculation to address the difficulty that elderly citizens encounter in getting health care. He said his experience working as a hospice volunteer exposed him to the many problems senior citizens face in paying for prescription medications, despite pharmaceutical company programs offering medication at reduced prices or for free. Such programs are often underutilized because of underpromotion or confusing guidelines, Segal said, and the program he established — which was implemented in 18 Florida counties — helps the elderly take advantage of these existing programs.
Segal, who was named a Goldman Sachs Global Leader last year at Stanford, said he expects to continue his public service work in the future.
“I will continue to be actively engaged in issues of health care advocacy and access throughout my life, but at such a young age it is difficult to pin myself down to any one area,” he said. “I am interested in all areas of inequity in this country, especially with regard to the environment, child poverty, minority and immigrant rights and education.”
Segal said his involvement in the Native American community at Yale and in the fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon has helped him build a strong support network. After graduation, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in public health and a doctorate in government and social policy, he said.
Stanford professor Dr. Larry Zaroff, who taught Segal in seminars relating medicine to literature and who wrote one of his Truman recommendations, said Segal’s leadership and ingenuity were apparent both inside and outside the classroom.
“He was exceedingly bright, broadly knowledgeable and very articulate,” Zaroff said. “He was clearly a leader at Stanford, and I was sorry to see him go.”
De Laurentis said Segal will become part of an active Truman Scholar community, including participating in a week-long leadership session in Missouri that will feature government dignitaries and other officials speaking about public service opportunities.
“It’s a lot more than just $30,000 for grad school,” she said.
As part of the program, Segal will also be eligible for unique opportunities for government internships.
Congress established the Truman Scholarship Foundation in 1975, and its awards are supported by a U.S. Treasury trust fund. Since the first awards in 1977, 2,545 Truman Scholars have been elected.