The Brendan Kutler Memorial Scholarship was established in 2011. The $20,000 four year college scholarship was awarded annually for three years to a high school senior who had successfully participated in either the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) or Summer Science Program (SSP). Both TARC and SSP were programs that Brendan passionately participated in.
Mr. Terence W. Lyons, then the Chief Executive Officer of AmSafe Industries, Inc., provided both the idea and initial funding for the scholarship. In announcing the scholarship, Mr. Lyons remarked:
Brendan was an extraordinary young man who found ways to connect with people all over the globe. With grace and humility, Brendan strove to use his talents to support others and to make the world a better place. It is in this spirit and in his honor and memory that we have established this scholarship. In an era where more often than not we hear about what is wrong with our upcoming generation, Brendan was a shining example of what is good in so many of today’s young people. Through this scholarship, we hope to identify other young men and women with similar traits, values and aspirations and to help them, through education, to make a positive impact as tomorrow’s leaders.
Brendan’s insatiable thirst for knowledge led him to achievements well beyond his years. In the academic world, Brendan defined the notion of intellectual curiosity. Japanese, computer science, cinema, scientific research, music and photography were his passions, which he pursued with dogged determination.
Beyond his intellectual gifts, however, Brendan was an extraordinary human being who found ways to connect with people all over the globe. With grace and humility, Brendan used his talents to support others and to make the world a better place.
Brendan’s level of curiosity drove him to always probe beyond the simple answer. In his world, the answer wasn’t necessarily the point, because for Brendan, life was truly more about the journey than the destination.
For someone so gifted in the areas of math and computer science, Brendan also had a capability to express a depth of emotion through the written word; a talent that is especially rare in one so young. Writing recently about a trip he took to Japan, Brendan demonstrated his understanding of the importance of appreciating the time we have: “After my travels, I focus on living instead of existing—and life has blossomed.” Despite his extraordinary gifts, Brendan did not seek accolades. He instead sought to support and promote the achievement of others. Brendan lived his life by the saying, “None of us are as smart as all of us.”
Aaron Lewis Ashley of Gretna, Nebraska was the 2012 scholarship recipient. With support from the scholarship, Aaron attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Aaron lead his Gretna High School rocketry team in the nationwide Team America Rocketry Challenge. While he has extensive interests and accomplishments ranging from competition-level piano and percussion, astronomy and Boy Scouts, Aaron dreams of one day being instrumental in advancing the exploration of space.
Rasmi Elasmar of Lakewood, California received the scholarship in 2013. He excelled at a broad range of course offerings as Mayfair High School while simultaneously completing classes at the University of California, Irvine and being employed by the Aerospace Corporation. With support from the scholarship, Rasmi plans to attend Columbia University in New York. Rasmi attended the Summer Science Program in Santa Barbara. He has strong intellectual curiosity with a wide diversity of interests all balanced by a good dose of compassion and humility. Rasmi hopes to use computer science to address the “big issues” in this world.
In 2014 Denis Russu received the scholarship. Denis grew up in an agrarian village in southern Ukraine. Like many young aspiring scientists, he spent his early years in school with his heart set on becoming an astronaut. As he grew older and moved to the United States, that ambition developed into a love for astrophysics and mathematics. Denis’ studies in STEM culminated in his participation in the Summer Science Program; research in Low Energy Nuclear Reactions at Portland State University (PSU); and taking his rocket team to the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) finals in DC—the first team from his school to ever make it to finals. Lately Denis has been increasingly drawn to the engineering disciplines where he feels he can have a more direct impact on humanity than his earlier love for theory. Denis will be attending Stanford University as a prospective aerospace engineering major with a heavy dose of computer sciences. He is very excited about exploring the blossoming private aerospace industry.