Prestigious Truman Scholarship awarded to Rice’s Lee Waldman

Lee Waldman.

Lee Waldman, a Rice junior majoring in sociology in the School of Social Sciences and the study of women, gender and sexuality in the School of Humanities, has been awarded a Truman Scholarship, the premier graduate fellowship in the U.S. for those pursuing careers as leaders in public service.

Lee Waldman
Lee Waldman. Submitted photo. 

The scholarship was established by Congress in 1975 as the living memorial to Harry Truman, carrying the legacy of the 33rd U.S. president by supporting and inspiring the next generation of public service leaders.

Truman Scholars must demonstrate outstanding leadership potential, a commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit sector and academic excellence. Each scholar receives funding for graduate studies, leadership training, career counseling and special internship and fellowship opportunities within the federal government.

“I am excited to be named a Truman Scholar because of the unparalleled support I now have in pursuing graduate studies, both financially and through advising,” Waldman said. “In addition to the graduate studies benefits, the Truman community is composed of changemakers doing impactful work in public policy.”

Waldman is focusing his Rice studies on women, gender and sexuality to inform his activism in housing justice, which began during his youth in Ithaca, New York. He is a founding member of Ithaca’s Youth Action Board, a group of young people working to fight youth homelessness in the community. He and his team members won the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program grant, a multi-million dollar grant dedicated to elevating the youth’s voice in service provision. He is also a community advocate and member of the Ithaca Continuum of Care, a network of organizations and stakeholders working together to end homelessness. He said he is especially passionate about the safety of LGBTQ+ disabled youth.

“Protecting marginalized populations is the root of equitable policy,” he said.

Waldman said the recognition will also allow him to pursue an education to further his understanding of housing policy in order to be an effective and well-informed public service leader. And he said the resources available to Truman scholars will greatly assist him in accessing federal decision-making bodies.

“As a trans person living at a time when our rights are under attack, I am proud to now be a part of a scholarly network that impacts policy and service provision across the world,” Waldman said. “By continuing to diversify decision-making bodies and listening to marginalized people about their lived experience, we will be able to fight the onslaught of hate that is targeting the LGBTQ+ community.”

Waldman will spend his Summer Institute after his senior year — a summer in D.C. with the Truman Foundation — working at HUD to start his path toward his career goals.

“I look forward to learning from and collaborating with fellow scholars as I move forward with a career in public service,” he said.

Waldman said he is especially grateful to Rice’s Center for Civic Leadership (CCL) for its support throughout the process of pursuing the Truman Scholarship.

“They were with me every step of the way, from helping me revise my essays to booking my hotel for the finalist interview,” Waldman said. “The CCL is a necessary resource on Rice campus for fostering student leadership and civic engagement; I could not be more grateful for their continued belief in me.”

When approached by a bipartisan group of admirers near the end of his life, President Truman embodied this commitment to the future of public service by asking Congress to create a living memorial devoted to this purpose rather than a traditional brick-and-mortar monument.

For almost 50 years, the Truman Foundation — an independent agency in the White House complex — has fulfilled his mission of inspiring and supporting Americans from diverse backgrounds to public service.

The 60 new Truman Scholars were selected from 709 candidates nominated by 285 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. This year’s awardees join a community of 3,564 Truman Scholars named since the first awards in 1977.