KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Four Peyton Manning Scholars—some of the nation’s brightest students, with track records of strong academic achievement, leadership, and community service—were honored for their accomplishments on July 8. Three of the scholars met with Manning at a reception where they expressed the impact the scholarship will have on them.
Peyton Manning, who endowed the four-year scholarship in 1998, has seen awards go to 41 students in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s prestigious Haslam Scholars Program.
“To give others the opportunity I had back in 1994 to come to this great school has been worth it for me,” Manning said. “It makes an impact on the students, as well as the person who donates. There are a lot of creative ways to give, whether it be via scholarships or by supporting different needs throughout campus, and it can be rewarding at the same time. I cherished my time here as a student just as much as I did as an athlete, and it’s just been great to see how this program has grown over the past 22 years.”
This year’s recipients are Caleb Ellis, a computer engineering major from Sevierville, Tennessee; Sreya Kumpatla, an aerospace engineering major from Memphis, Tennessee; John Maddox, a mathematics major from Jonesborough, Tennessee; and Maggie Meystrik, a psychology major from St. Louis, Missouri.
Their talents are both varied and deep, and they have made significant accomplishments.
Ellis, who aspires to do research, has built multiple computers, tutors fellow students, and is active in the National Honor Society.
“Having been blessed with this amazing scholarship and opportunity is an honor and humbling experience, and I plan to do all I can for East Tennessee and the world,” Ellis said. “I want to design new computer chips that can essentially jump-start solutions to many problems, including helping farmers water their crops better and engineers reduce emissions.”
Maddox, who is an Eagle Scout and plans to be a cryptographer, was valedictorian of his high school class, secretary of the Beta Club, president of the Science Olympiad team, and a member of the National Honor Society and the Academic Team. He tutors fellow students in trigonometry and calculus.
“Being an Eagle Scout has prepared me to be a Peyton Manning Scholar because the service requirements have been a big part of my life,” Maddox said. “With everything that Peyton has done for the university, I just want to continue doing what he does and give back.”
Meystrik also wants to pursue research. She founded Rosie’s Rebels, a club that advocates for women’s empowerment and has raised over $1,000 for the Covering House, which provides housing and counseling for young survivors of sex trafficking. She is the editor of her school’s quarterly publication of student writing and artwork and serves as stage manager for theater productions.
“I want to research how people are affected internally by external factors such as global conditions—climate and political change—so that people can better understand one another,” Meystrik said. “Being a Peyton Manning Scholar is an incredible honor for me. It reaffirms the fact that I need to show the same sort of dedication and leadership that Peyton Manning himself has shown.”
Kumpatla, who aspires to work at NASA or SpaceX, received a perfect score on her ACT and won second place in the regional high school chemistry exam. At her high school, she was a member of the Science Olympiad team and varsity tennis captain, as well as a gold medalist in the 2018 State Games of Mississippi. She is traveling internationally and was therefore unable to attend the ceremony.
The four scholars were honored with plaques on campus. In addition to being recognized by Manning, they were praised by Chancellor Donde Plowman for their outstanding academic records and efforts as citizens.