Gavin Fry '25 Wins Truman Scholarship

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The program provides up to $30,000 toward graduate study related to public service.

Gavin Fry '25 outside the Shattuck Observatory
First-generation student Gavin Fry ’25 is interested in understanding more about climate science from a societal point of view. He will do research for the National Weather Service this summer. (Photo by Katie Lenhart)

Growing up in rural Arkansas and Missouri, raised by his grandmother in a mobile home, Gavin Fry ’25 came to understand that severe weather affects everyone, but it doesn’t affect everyone equally.

“If you think about the sort of setting where I grew up, these densely populated areas with mobile homes, rural locations where there’s a lot of poverty, where English might not be the first language, it’s really hard to take the necessary precautions when it comes to severe weather such as tornadoes. And that’s why the highest number of deaths in the United States from severe weather occur in the mid-South,” Fry says. 

It was his desire to understand and address this problem at the nexis of meteorology and sociology that brought him to Dartmouth, where he was able to gain approval for a customized major in climate system science, and it was his determination to address this inequity through public service that brought him recognition and support from the Truman Scholarship Foundation. 

Fry is among the 60 Truman Scholarship recipients selected from a field of 709 candidates nominated by 285 colleges and universities, the Truman Scholarship Foundation announced today. “Resourceful, patriotic leaders, today’s Truman Scholars would make President Truman proud,” Terry Babcock-Lumish, the foundation’s executive secretary said in a news release Friday.

Fry received the news of his selection in a phone call from President Sian Leah Beilock informing him of his selection to the fellowship that provides up to $30,000 toward a public service-related graduate degree, as well as leadership training, career counseling, and special internship and fellowship opportunities within the federal government. Fry’s long-term goal is to work his way into a policy or leadership position with the National Weather Service.

Fry, a first-generation college student, is a Louis V. Gerstner Jr. Scholar, a program at Dartmouth supporting such students who have shown high promise in STEM fields. Fry says he is grateful to Dartmouth for giving him the opportunity to pursue his passion for meteorology while opening him to the broad perspective at the heart of a liberal arts education. 

“As opposed to going to another institution where I would’ve taken a deep dive into meteorology, I was able to look at it from a liberal arts perspective. So not only did I get the rigorous physical science and math background that I needed, I was also able to integrate the humanities to understand climate science not just from a physical perspective, but also understand it from a societal point of view,” Fry says.

Crucial was the support and encouragement of Erich Osterberg, associate professor of earth sciences, who helped Fry design his special major of climate system science, which includes courses from the earth sciences, geography, environmental studies, physics, and math, as well as classes in the humanities. Also advising Fry in his journey is Melody Brown Burkins, the director of the Institute of Arctic Studies and senior associate director of the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding.

Both faculty advisers supported Fry’s petition for a special major before the Council for Interdisciplinary Studies, which formally approved his major this term.

And Fry, who won a Goldwater scholarship last spring, credits Jay Davis, director of the First Generation Office, as an important mentor from the day he arrived at Dartmouth.

“Gavin Fry is a force of nature himself, so it is no surprise that he is so passionate about meteorology and the weather forces that shape our world,” Davis says. “From the moment I met him as a pre-matriculated FYSEP student, through his receiving the Churchill Prize for largest first-year contribution to Dartmouth, to his thorough exploration of the Dartmouth resources that have helped him win the Truman, Gavin has inspired all who know him, and particularly other first-generation, low-income students.”

Fry has up to four years after graduation to take advantage of the Truman funding for graduate school, which includes a commitment of at least three years in a public service career. In the meantime, he will spend this coming summer doing research for the National Weather Service in Alabama, funded by an Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“I’m going to have the opportunity to travel around and speak with people who have been impacted by severe weather to try and better understand where they get their weather information, and why they did or didn’t take shelter,” Fry says. “So I’ll be viewing these things from more of a sociological perspective, which reflects that multidisciplinary approach that we’re trying to get at here at Dartmouth. So that’s something I’m excited about.”

He expects this research to translate into a senior thesis through the Department of Earth Sciences. The Hollings program also gives Fry an entry point to a job in the federal government. 

“So the hope as of now is to take a job with the National Weather Service after graduation and work for a little while, get some real world experience, and then after a couple years, go on to grad school, use the Truman funds, and just keep rising in the ranks in the federal government.”

Established by Congress in 1975 as the living memorial to President Harry S Truman and a national monument to public service, the Truman Scholarship carries the legacy of the 33rd President by supporting and inspiring the next generation of public service leaders.

Students interested in learning about Truman Scholarships and other opportunities should visit Dartmouth’s Office of Fellowship Advising.