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Florida Tech's First Farmer Scholar Reflects on Four Years

05/03/2013

Hernandez focused on May 4 commencement, fresh challenges

MELBOURNE, FLA.—Andrew Hernandez is turning the page. The 21-year-old is ending an important chapter in his educational journey, having been named Florida Institute of Technology’s inaugural Phillip W. Farmer Scholar as a 2009 freshman. The Chemical Engineering major from Tampa will graduate with his bachelor’s degree at Florida Tech’s May 4 commencement exercises.

What’s next? A chemical engineering master’s degree from Florida Tech, followed by another master’s degree in business. Hernandez wants to make the most of every educational experience.

“With the chemical engineering master’s I want to develop an advanced understanding in my field,” Hernandez said. “With the master’s in business, I want to raise my ceiling of where I can go in my career. So it’s kind of hitting both pretty hard in a short amount of time, and I think that will really set me up for my future.”

Hernandez is eying an entrepreneurial future in a field where he can make a contribution to society.

“I think it would be a really great idea to work on a company that develops pollution technologies, and I think it would really help the world.”

He credits the Farmer Scholar program generally, and scholarship founder Phil Farmer specifically, with helping him to think about the world in new ways, and focus on opportunities to make fresh contributions.

“I think Mr. Farmer in establishing this scholarship and my being lucky enough to be the first one to get it had a really big impact on me. It’s really pushed me to push myself. I think about the future a lot, and it has really inspired me to think about giving and the giving of others.”

Hernandez is grateful to Mrs. Farmer as well.

“Jeanne has been phenomenal,” he added. “She's a very loving woman and a wonderful cook. The first time I had dinner at their house, we had cherry chicken, and since then I've been hooked. She likes to say she's my Melbourne mom and she is always saying how proud I make Phil and her.”

No one can accuse Hernandez of not making the most of his four years at Florida Tech. He has served as an Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) Presidential Fellow, representing Florida Tech to Tallahassee legislators. He’s served as a student government leader, while also volunteering to help the university development office raise money for future scholarships. And he’s learned to surf.

Hernandez has also completed a study abroad experience, giving him a new perspective on international relations, while visiting England and Ireland.

“That was the first time I’ve been off the North American continent, so it really opened my eyes to a bigger world with people everywhere doing all sorts of things internationally.”

Biomedical research is one of Hernandez’s passions, having lobbied for the creation of a program at Florida Tech. He’s gained important experience aiding in the university’s research of Alzheimer’s disease, studying methods to unlock the mysteries of the disorder that affects 5.4 million Americans.

This summer, Hernandez hopes to learn more about nanotechnology, and will complete an internship with Mainstream Engineering in Rockledge. But before he walks across the stage at Saturday’s commencement and moves on to summer studies, he’s picking up a few other prestigious accolades.

Last year, Hernandez was nominated by the university for the internationally renowned Rhodes Scholarship. At this spring’s honors convocation, he received the Distinguished Student Scholar Award and an Outstanding Senior Award—but his proudest trophy was the 2013 Donald R. Mason Award. It is presented annually to the outstanding senior in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

“It made me feel really good because it was a combination of everything that I had put forth,” he said. “It meant a lot to me.”

Hernandez hopes his time as the Farmer Scholar program’s trailblazing first recipient will enhance the experience for future students.

“I want kids to say, ‘I really want that scholarship,’ and not only do they want it, but once they get it, that want to build on its reputation. I want to inspire them to achieve great things to better the university, and better the world.”

The Farmer Scholar Program provides a full four-year scholarship to be awarded annually to a Florida resident and high school graduate. Included in the scholarship are all tuition and university fees, a room in Harris Village’s Farmer Hall, the regular university meal plan and the opportunity to participate in the Oxford Study Abroad program.

Phillip W. Farmer, retired chairman, president and chief executive officer of Harris Corp., donated $1.5 million to establish this endowed scholarship.

PHOTO AVAILABLE

(left to right) Professor and head of the Chemistry Department Manolis Tomadakis, Andrew Hernandez and Anthony J. Catanese, president and CEO of Florida Tech.

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