Maurice Hilleman, Ph.D. is one of the world’s most respected scientists for his work in vaccine development, which has saved millions of lives. Hilleman graduated first in his class from MSU in 1941 with a dual degree in chemistry and microbiology. In recognition of his success, MSU established the Hilleman Scholars Program. Fifty high school students from across the state of Montana are chosen for this program. This year MSU presented the sixth class of Hilleman Scholars.

“We are so proud of all 50 of these Montana students, we know they have the potential, like Maurice Hilleman, to change the world, and we’re delighted to invest in them,” President Waded Cruzado told MSU News Service. 

Hilleman Scholars are selected each year based on personal essays, nomination letters, grades and their financial need. Primary factors in the selection process highlight the applicants’ indication of leadership, academic and career potential. The 50 selected scholars are eligible for $6,500 in academic support in their first year of undergraduate study and $4,000 each following year. Throughout the school year, students are expected to engage in at least 10 hours a week of extracurricular activities to prepare them to succeed in academics, internships and careers. These activities also prepare the students for their third year in school, when the scholars are expected to forward the support they’ve been given by acting as mentors and tutors for new students. The scholars are also eligible for an additional $3,000 at the end of their junior year to study abroad if they have proven their dedication to excellence in their first three years of school. It is expected of the scholars to graduate in four years.

Hilleman was a Montana native, born in Miles City in 1919. Following his undergraduate career at MSU and graduate studies at the University of Chicago, he embarked on his career in vaccinology. Through his advances in global public health, he became the world’s leading vaccinologist, developing over 40 vaccines for both human and animal well-being. Merck & Co. is where Hilleman spent most of his career, and it is estimated that his vaccines have been distributed to over 750 million people worldwide. The vaccine for measles, mumps, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningitis and pneumonia are credited to Hilleman, along with others. 

When Hilleman passed away in 2005, scientists credited him with saving more lives than any other person in the 20th century, according to his New York Times obituary.  Hilleman’s work has been crucial for inhibiting and preventing pandemics. 

“The world needs more Dr. Hillemans to solve problems to advance our communities and economy through leadership and consequential efforts,” said Carina Beck, Vice Provost of the Allen Yarnell Center of Student Success, toMSU News Service.

According to Beck, the work of this program comes together with the help of many different partnerships which include, the Hilleman family, the program’s investors, Montana K-12 educators, Hilleman scholars families and the faculty at MSU. These partners help to influence the advancement of a better future for the state of Montana. 

For more information in regards to the Hilleman Scholars Program, visit

For more information in regards to Hilleman, visit