Junior Teddy Sims selected as Truman Scholar

Sims is committed to strengthening the military's understanding of different cultures

Teddy Sims, a junior at Washington University in St. Louis, has been awarded the Truman Scholarship, one of the most prestigious and selective scholarships in higher education.

Winners receive $30,000 for their graduate studies. Sims, who is majoring in international and area studies in Arts & Sciences, plans to earn a master’s degree in international security studies. He then will serve in the U.S. Army.

“To serve my community and my country as a Truman Scholar is an amazing opportunity,” Sims said. “I’m excited to get the education and the skills I need to make an impact in a way that protects soldiers and improves global relationships.”

Sims learns he is a Truman Scholar
Provost Holden Thorp surprises Teddy Sims with news that he has been awarded the Truman Scholarship. Photo by Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos

Sims, 22, currently serves as cadet executive officer for Gateway Battalion Army ROTC. In that role, he traveled to France, Italy, Tanzania and Morocco, where he developed strategies to strengthen the military’s culture and language programs.

His “smart book” on Morocco — an easy-to-read guide to the nation’s language, customs and politics — is being used by U.S. Army Africa as a model for future guides.

“Operational readiness and tactical proficiency matter, but understanding language and culture must be priorities too,” Sims said. “I believe in listening to people and learning their stories. If we don’t understand the people we are working with, whether that person is a village elder or a commander, how can we be successful?”

Grizelda McClelland, assistant dean in Arts & Sciences, calls Sims a strong leader and gifted student of international affairs.

“Teddy believes that leadership is not authoritative, rather resilient and bilateral,” McClelland wrote in her nominating letter. “And his guidebook is designed to encourage precisely that model of interaction between American soldiers and citizens of foreign countries.”  

Sims speaks Swahili and is a leader of the university’s International Relations Round Table. This summer, he will travel to Brussels to serve as an intern for the U.S. Mission to NATO.

More about Sims

Hometown: Atlanta

Greek life: Served as president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and Interfraternity Council vice-president of campus and community outreach

Internships: National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations in Washington; U.S. Army Africa in Morocco, France and Italy; and Longido Community Integrated Program in Tanzania

Research: University research delegate to United Nations Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru

Family ties: Brother David Sims works in Washington University Alumni & Development as director of parent programs

Named after former President Harry S. Truman, of Missouri, the Truman Scholarship celebrates outstanding students who have demonstrated a devotion to public service. Truman did not attend college but called for the same sort of education Sims champions.

“Ignorance and its handmaidens — prejudice, intolerance, suspicion of our fellow man — breed dictators and breed wars,” Truman told students at Fordham University in 1946.

Some 775 college juniors applied for this year’s scholarships; only 60 were selected. Sims is the seventh Washington University student to win the scholarship since 2005.

Sims learned the news Tuesday when Provost Holden Thorp summoned him to Brookings Hall.

“When you get called to the Provost’s Office, it’s either for good news or bad news. Guess which one,” Thorp asked Sims.

“I’m going to guess good,” Sims ventured.

“You won your Truman Scholarship,” Thorp said. “Congratulations. We’re really proud of you.”

Sims told Thorp that he credits his classmates, fraternity brothers and fellow ROTC members for his success.

“I have surrounded myself with people who have pushed me to be my best, who have constantly challenged me to push through” Sims said.  

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