MSU graduate and vaccinologist, Maurice Hilleman celebrates his 100th birthday as of one of Montana State University’s most notable alumni. The Hilleman Scholars Program will also be celebrating four years of providing student scholarships. The program will be sustained for future years thanks to a recent $1 million endowment.

The endowment has been funded by Lorraine Hilleman, Maurice’s widow, as well as individual donors and Merck & Co., the pharmaceutical company where Hilleman spent the majority of his career. 

The Hilleman Scholars Program is open to incoming freshmen who are graduates of Montana high schools and are eligible for Pell Grants from the university. To be considered as an applicant, students must complete a thorough application with an essay and letters of recommendation. Students are additionally assessed based on grades and financial need. Most importantly, the applicants are evaluated based on evidence of academic potential, leadership, and career ambitions. Recipients of the scholarship are awarded up to a total of $20,000 in tuition stipends.

Born in August of 1919, Hilleman was raised in a humble farming family near Miles City, Montana. Hilleman expected to pursue a career in the small farming town, but ultimately decided to attend MSU after receiving a scholarship. He graduated at the top of his class in 1941 with a dual degree in chemistry and microbiology. After his studies at MSU, he continued an academic career at the University of Chicago.

Hilleman is widely recognized as one of the fathers of modern medicine. During his graduate work at the University of Chicago, Hilleman discovered the cure for chlamydia. His most notable work, however, was developing vaccinations for more than 40 diseases. These include measles, mumps, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningitis, and pneumonia. He also pioneered research with flu shots and discovered the differences between strains. 

Hilleman is credited with discovering 8 of the 14 vaccinations given to children at birth. Due to his successful endeavours in the field of vaccinology, Hilleman’s work has saved the lives of hundreds of millions of people. 

MSU and the Hilleman Scholars Program is fortunate to receive funding to continue this program for exceptional young learners.

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