For more than a century, Rensselaer, in conjunction with high schools around the world, has awarded the Rensselaer Medal scholarship to promising high school juniors who have distinguished themselves in mathematics and science. This year marks the 100-year anniversary of the Rensselaer Medal. To date, 5,643 alumni and alumnae have received the award.
The merit scholarship, with a value of $25,000 per year, is guaranteed for four years (five years for the bachelor of architecture program and students enrolled in a co-terminal program) for each medalist who is accepted and enrolls at Rensselaer. Overall, a student may be eligible to receive a scholarship valued up to $100,000.
The Rensselaer Medal was first presented in 1916 with two purposes: to recognize the superlative academic achievement of young men and women, and to motivate students toward careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. The medal, the oldest prize of its kind in the United States, is on a par with the Harvard Book Prize and the Brown Book Award as the most celebrated recognitions of excellence in secondary school education, according to an article that appeared in Rensselaer alumni magazine.
At its inception, the program was instituted in more than 800 schools. By 1950, approximately 1,000 schools awarded the medal. The recipients were largely from New York and other Northeastern states. Today, the Rensselaer Medal is awarded at more than 4,000 high schools throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia.
The Rensselaer Medal is a wonderful way to pay tribute to the high school students who have achieved excellence in math and science. The Rensselaer Medal winners represent the next generation of leaders, scientists, innovators, artists, scholars, game designers, architects, humanitarians, and entrepreneurs.”—Jonathan D. Wexler
Each participating high school is allowed to select one member of the junior class to be honored with the Rensselaer Medal Award. To receive the Medal Scholarship, students must apply, be accepted, and enroll at Rensselaer. The official Rensselaer Medal will be presented during Honors Convocation in the fall of the first year at Rensselaer. The responsibility for designating the Rensselaer Medalist belongs to faculty and staff within the secondary school.
This year, the Rensselaer Medalist Open House was held on Saturday, September 10, on the Rensselaer campus. Students and their families had an opportunity to tour the campus, explore the labs, learn about current research and academic programs, speak with Rensselaer faculty and students, and discover what campus life is like at Rensselaer. Nearly 500 students and over 1,500 family members were expected to attend.
“The Rensselaer Medal is a wonderful way to pay tribute to the high school students who have achieved excellence in math and science,” said Jonathan D. Wexler, vice president for enrollment management at Rensselaer. “As we do so, we are aware that these early achievements, as impressive as they are, mark only one milestone on their future journeys of commitment to hard work, drive, focus, and collaborations. The Rensselaer Medal winners represent the next generation of leaders, scientists, innovators, artists, scholars, game designers, architects, humanitarians, and entrepreneurs.”
Some notable recipients of the Rensselaer Medal include William M. Klages ’47, award-winning lighting designer, and Claire Fraser ’77, pioneering microbiologist, who are both members of the Rensselaer Alumni Hall of Fame. In addition, Sheldon Weinbaum ’59—a member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine—was also a recipient. And Rensselaer Board of Trustees members Paula Loring Simon ’68 and Daniel Pickett III ’90 were Rensselaer Medal winners.
This year, more than 1,700 students—representing the largest incoming class in the Institute’s history—are members of the Rensselaer Class of 2020. The high-achieving group includes 205 Medalists. The first-year students hail from 47 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and from countries all around the world. The students will receive their medals during the 2016 Honors Convocation ceremony planned for Oct. 22.