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A conversation about Chuck Yeager and the Yeager Scholarship with Dr. Mathew Weimer

A conversation about Chuck Yeager and the Yeager Scholarship with Dr. Mathew Weimer

What did receiving the Yeager Scholarship mean to you? 

My experience in the Society of Yeager Scholars meant that I had the opportunity to learn in a small group, seminar format that encouraged debate, discussion, and critical thinking. The program also allowed for many once-in-a-lifetime experiences, including studying literature at Oxford University in the UK. 

How did being a Yeager Scholar positively impact your life? 

The most important impact of this program on my life was that it brought me to West Virginia, where I have been ever since (with the exception of a 4 year hiatus when I went to medical school in Ohio). I’m very fortunate to live in Huntington with my family and to serve my patients and the community in the work that I do with Valley Health. I wouldn’t change a thing, and the decision to apply for the Yeager program back in the late 1990s was, as it turns out, a watershed moment for me.

Did you have the opportunity to meet Chuck Yeager? 

I was fortunate to meet General Yeager on multiple occasions, the most memorable of which was flying with him in the fall of 1997 in a P-51 aircraft to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his sound barrier-breaking flight.

Is there anything additional about Chuck Yeager or the Yeager Scholars Program that you would like to share? 

The Yeager program is a great asset for Marshall University and the state, especially with regard to recruiting and potentially retaining young people to live in and contribute to the state and region.

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How receiving the Yeager Scholarship impacted my life

How receiving the Yeager Scholarship impacted my life

By Dr. Ryan Cicenas

Receiving the Yeager Scholarship was incredible.  Of course, having college paid for was a blessing for me (and my parents).  However, the opportunity to be part of something bigger was the reason I chose Marshall.  Most schools give out scholarships based upon academic achievements.  You go to school and earn good grades and they leave you alone.  With the Yeager Scholarship, I was joining a program (and a tough one at that).  My initial Yeager class started with ten students but only seven graduated together.  Each semester for the first two years we had our “Yeager Seminar”.  It was a five hour class that replaced the college basic requirements but was much more intense.  Each class consisted of three or four professors.  Considering the ratio of one professor to 3 students, we were intimidated.  The classes helped us to think critically.  Extensive writing and speaking assignments never seemed to end.  The goal was to produce well rounded students able to tackle any career.  Between our sophomore and junior years my class studied together at Oxford University in England.  Before that trip, I thought little of the plays of William Shakespeare.  Now I can say that I not only appreciate them but enjoy them immensely.  The Yeager Scholarship also provided a semester abroad.  The following summer I studied at Universitas Nebresenses in Madrid, Spain.  I was able to study the language and culture while living with a family in the city.  My art class was conducted while walking through the world famous Prado Museum.   

The program looked for and encouraged extracurricular activities.  As a walk-on, I played football for the Thundering  Herd for two years. I was also involved with my fraternity (Alpha Tau Omega) and my church (The Newman Center). The culmination of the scholarship was completing and presenting our senior projects before we were allowed to graduate as Yeager Scholars.  My project was titled:  The Evolution of Continuity from Aristotle through Calculus.  Last came he medallion ceremony where we were given medallions made of the same material as the Bell X1 plane that Chuck Yeager flew to break the sound barrier in 1947. 

Graduating as a Yeager Scholar gave me the confidence to tackle any problem and helped me find my career.  After finishing my Med-Peds residency at Marshall, I started working as a physician in Bluefield Virginia in a job recommended to me by Joseph Hunnicutt, one of the original forces behind the creation of the Yeager Program.  I then met my wife, Susan Stinnett (now Cicenas) at a Yeager Symposium dinner in 2006.  She was in the Yeager class of 2000.  When leaving my previous job, I interviewed at Valley Health with the administration.  Matthew Weimer was present that day and also just happened to be a Yeager scholar at Marshall.  So in essence, I can thank the Yeager Program for helping me with my jobs and my family. 

I met General Yeager for the first time at the Yeager Symposium dinner in October of 1991 and a few times thereafter.  He had a larger than life personality.  People naturally flocked to him.  He was personable and so down to earth.  And stories – he had so many of them and would always share.  He was always so proud of the program and the students and never hesitated to express that feeling.

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