UO graduate student named Tillman Military Scholar

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Marine Capt. Matthew McCallum
Marine Capt. Matthew McCallum

After five years of service and two combat tours to Afghanistan, graduate student Matthew McCallum enrolled in the University of Oregon’s Couples and Family Therapy Program to learn the skills to assist service members, veterans and their families with the marital and family challenges that military life presents.

“I chose to pursue a degree in Couples and Family Therapy because, as a military officer, I spent a fair amount of time listening to the marital and family issues of my Marines,” said McCallum. “I saw how much stress the military lifestyle can place on couples and families of all ages. I want to become my best self, and to assist others in doing so as well.”

In recognition of his service, leadership and academic excellence, McCallum was one of 60 U.S. service members, veterans and military spouses selected as a 2014 Tillman Military Scholar by the Pat Tillman Foundation.

“Personally and professionally, being selected as a Tillman Military Scholar is one of the happiest honors of my life,” said McCallum. “Additionally, I have read the short biographies of my fellow Tillman Military Scholars, and they impress me beyond words. To be included among such a group is an honor in and of itself.”

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, McCallum received his bachelor’s degree in information technology from the United States Naval Academy in May 2008. A captain in the Marine Corps, he left active duty in February 2013 but will remain part of the Individual Ready Reserve until 2016 in case of a large-scale mobilization of the armed forces.

“I was initially attracted to the University of Oregon because they have a nationally accredited Couples and Family Therapy program,” said McCallum. “After visiting the campus and the town, I was hooked. The University of Oregon has such rich history:  Ken Kesey, Steve Prefontaine, Animal House and the best college football uniforms, to name only a few elements of it. Eugene and UO, like Pat Tillman, seemed unafraid to be themselves.”

As part of the College of Education’s counseling psychology and human services department, the Couples and Family Therapy master’s program prepares students to become professional family therapists and provide leadership in the field of family therapy.

“The faculty of the Couples and Family Therapy program are kind, committed and highly caring professionals,” said McCallum. “I also like the intimate setting of a small cohort, and the supervised therapy that the on-campus Center for Family Therapy affords.

“Upon completion of my studies at UO, I intend to become a licensed marriage and family therapist and work with active duty service members or veterans and their families. Since I already speak their language, know some of the places they have been and have my own experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder, I would love to help couples and families navigate the stresses unique to the military lifestyle and experience.”

After an extensive selection process, the 2014 Tillman Military Scholars were chosen from more than 7,500 interested applicants, and they will represent 39 universities and colleges nationwide. The scholars will receive $1.4 million in scholarships to pursue their education and continue their service in the fields of medicine, law, business, government, education, technology and the arts.

Founded in 2008, Tillman Military Scholarships assist with costs for tuition, fees, books and any additional expenses that may be considered barriers to reaching academic goals set by military veterans and family members. Scholarship recipients must maintain academic standards and are expected to contribute hours of service in their local communities.

“I was a teenager when I first heard of an NFL player who walked away from millions of dollars and the corresponding prestige of a professional sports athlete to enlist in the Army,” said McCallum. “I was inspired by, and felt a special kinship to, someone who possessed such intense conviction.

“To me, Pat represented the awesome balance of a rugged individualist and the ultimate team player; he had the courage to be his own unique self, and the discipline to forfeit some of that treasured personal freedom in order to serve what he deemed a higher good. It is a great personal honor to have my name mentioned near his.”

About the Pat Tillman Foundation

Family and friends established the Pat Tillman Foundation following Tillman’s death in 2004 while serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan. Created to honor Tillman’s legacy and pay tribute to his commitment to leadership and service, the Pat Tillman Foundation is a national leader in providing educational support and resources to veterans, active-duty service members and their spouses.

Inspired by Tillman’s attributes of leadership, passion for education and spirit of service, the foundation annually awards educational scholarships through the Tillman Military Scholars program. Since the foundation’s inception, has invested more than $10 million in educational support and scholarships, benefiting 350 Tillman Military Scholars at more than 98 academic institutions nationwide. For more information, visit www.pattillmanfoundation.org.

- By Melissa Foley, Public Affairs Communications