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When you think about the heart and soul of Texas A&M University, the image of a khaki-clad student probably comes to mind. As the university’s oldest student organization, the Corps of Cadets is an enduring symbol of Texas A&M’s core values, which has led to its members being dubbed “the Keepers of the Spirit.”

In 2018, a new scholarship program of the same name was launched to reward cadets who embody the Corps’ highest scholastic and leadership standards. A $500,000 endowment will fund a Keepers of the Spirit Scholarship, which annually provides four scholarships for cadets in each class year.

Laurie Gerard and Kim Malcolm created the first Keepers of the Spirit Scholarship in honor of their parents, Anna Jean and Larry McCurdy ’57, who began their 54-year-long marriage during Larry’s junior year at Texas A&M. “The Corps gave my father a foundation of hard work, determination and loyalty that he lived every day,” Kim said. “This scholarship fulfills a lifelong goal of his to help future cadets.”

The first four recipients spoke to us about their time in the Corps, where they’ve learned leadership and discipline while forming lifelong friendships, as well as their interests off the Quad.

Kenneth Cooper ’21

Kenneth Cooper ’21

Major: Nuclear Engineering

Unit: G-1

Post-graduation goal: Pursue a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering

Wow, that must involve intense research.

Last summer, I worked on a project that used machine learning applications to study radiation-induced defects.

Wait, what?

When radiation particles meet a material, they create voids. There are thousands of voids within a given sample in a very small area. To study them, you typically use a microscope and section out each one by hand, which takes hours. I helped develop a code that uses machine learning to recognize all the voids and segment them automatically. This can help us better understand how materials corrode or otherwise react under harsh radiation environments.

It’s worth it because:

I enjoy the wide variety of engineering applications. Nuclear engineering is not just confined to power plants; it can aid the development of renewable energy, medical research, space exploration, weapons and more.

Sang Lee ’22

Sang Lee ’22

Major: Aerospace Engineering

Unit: Squadron 11

Post-graduation goal: Seek a commission in the U.S. Air Force

So, you like flying.

Yes! Airplanes have interested me all my life, especially because my dad worked with aircraft maintenance in the military. We’re on the ground for most of our lives, but you get a different perspective of the world when you’re in the air. It’s calming to escape everything. After the Air Force, I hope to fly commercial planes.

Favorite Aggie tradition?

Silver Taps. It starts to get painful when you’re holding your salute in Academic Plaza, but you hold it out of respect for the individual and their family members. Experiencing that kind of emotion as an outfit gives it greater meaning.

Savannah Benson-China ’23

Savannah Benson-China ’23

Major: Society, Ethics & Law

Unit: Squadron 5

Post-graduation goal: Commission into the Air Force and attend law school to become a Judge Advocate General

I’ve never heard of your major.

My major is philosophy, political science and sociology all in one, and I’m double minoring in philosophy and military studies. I was so scared to focus on just one thing in college. In this major, I can learn about a wide array of subjects to prepare for law school.

And you’re from Germany.
From Wiesbaden, Germany, yes. That’s my happy place. But since I don’t have my family here, Texas A&M is a second home, and the Corps is my second family. When people tell you that being in the Corps is a forever thing, it really is.

Wacky American things?
The humidity. How big Texas is. Fried pickles. And “Howdy.” I swore I’d never say that, but now it’s second nature!

Jeremy Tietz ’24

Jeremy Tietz ’24

Major: General Engineering

Unit: Squadron 3

Post-graduation goals: Who knows? I’m only a freshman!

Okay, fair. But why engineering?

When I was a kid and didn’t know what an engineer was, I wanted to be an inventor. I loved Legos. I even played a game with myself called the Imagination Games. It all stemmed from a fascination with science fiction. I love that engineers are the forerunners in creating a future for the next generation.

What does that future look like?

Fifty years ago, engineers were developing, researching and producing the groundwork for everything we see today. Now, we’re trying to press forward into a new, more environmentally conscious future. The engineers of today must be more aware of our impact on the Earth. That’s our generation’s challenge.

How does this scholarship help you?

I see it as someone opening a door for me, so it means the world. It is helping develop who I want to be: a successful engineer who can move the world forward in positive ways.

To learn more about creating a Keepers of the Spirit Scholarship, contact Senior Director of Development Matt Jennings '95 at the bottom of this page.