Coe College student named finalist for prestigious Truman Scholarship

Max Gorden MercerThe Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation named Coe College’s Max Gorden Mercer ’24 as a 2023 Truman Scholarship finalist — he is the only finalist who attends a college or university in Iowa.

The foundation awards a $30,000 graduate fellowship to distinguished college students pursuing careers in public service. This year, 705 students across the nation completed the rigorous application process that includes seven essays and a detailed policy proposal. Gorden Mercer was among 199 students shortlisted as a finalist for the prestigious award. 

“It means a lot to be recognized on a national level,” Gorden Mercer said. “Being named a Truman Finalist has solidified my path in public service and I have been able to connect with so many people making real change in the public sector because of it.”

As a public accounting and business administration major, Gorden Mercer is planning to pursue a master of public affairs with a concentration in nonprofit management with the goal of working with nonprofits on properly funding social services. 

On campus, Gorden Mercer currently serves as the Student Body Treasurer, Student Activities Committee Business Chair, CoeVotes President, Alpha Phi Omega Vice President of Leadership, a resident assistant and a peer tutor. Off campus, he volunteers at Willis Dady and is a Coe representative in United Way of East Central Iowa's Board Orientation and Leadership Development Program.

To pursue the Truman, Gorden Mercer tapped into the experts on campus including National Fellowship Advisor and Associate Professor of English Amber Shaw. During the lengthy application process, she assisted with the application and got to know Gorden Mercer.

“Max embodies the Truman ethos of effecting change in his communities… He is dedicated to a career in public service and will make a real difference by ensuring the financial stability of nonprofits in communities like Cedar Rapids,” Shaw said.

Gorden Mercer also credits other faculty and staff across campus for encouraging his growth. 

“...Associate Professor of Economics Drew Westberg ’05 taught me to argue for my ideas, Assistant Professor of Accounting Amy Perry sparked my interest in nonprofit accounting, Director of Community & Civic Engagement Joe Demarest guided me toward public service as the CoeVotes advisor and Dean of Students Keniese Evans helped me create meaningful change on campus.”

“The support from Student Life while I worked through the application was crucial. It's been a busy nine months of writing the application and I'm grateful for the flexibility everyone has given me. It has has been amazing,” Gorden Mercer said.

Gorden Mercer joined Kohawks Angelina Ramirez ’22, Larissa Alire ’20, Kelly May ’19 and Briana Gipson ’19 as Coe finalists in the last six years. Alire and May both were awarded a Truman Scholarship. 
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was created by Congress in 1975 to be a living memorial to President Harry S. Truman. 

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