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U.Va. Student Markus Weisner Wins Prestigious Mitchell Scholarship; Will Live and Study in Ireland

Markus A. WeisnerJanuary 17, 2005

By Matt Kelly

Markus A. Weisner, a fourth-year engineering student at the University of Virginia, has won a 2005-2006 George J. Mitchell Scholarship to live and study for one year in Ireland. He is one of 12 recipients this year to receive the award, which recognizes outstanding young Americans who exhibit the highest standards of academic excellence, leadership and community service.

Weisner, 24, will study for a degree in fire safety practice at Trinity College in Dublin.

“This will be a great experience,” said Weisner, who has traveled throughout Europe, but has not yet been to Ireland. “I’m very excited. I think it will be a good fit.”

Weisner has been involved in fire fighting and fire safety issues for several years, as a volunteer with the Charlottesville Fire Department and the Nags Head, N.C., Fire Department and Ocean Rescue division. He also has been a Disaster Action Team member for the Red Cross in Central Virginia, responding to natural and man-made disasters in the region. He will try to find a role for himself with the Dublin Fire Brigade.

In addition, Weisner is founder and president of the Association of Student Firefighters at U.Va. and has started a business, Fire Hardware LLC, to market the fire-fighting equipment he has designed.

During his undergraduate years, Weisner has won a Harry S. Truman Scholarship, studied a semester at the Universität Konstanz and conducted scientific research abroad for DaimlerChrysler Germany. He worked as an intern in the office of Sen. George F. Allen, R-Va., and with the Senate Commerce Committee and the U.Va./MIT internship program. He taught handicapped children how to ski and a served as a member of the U.Va. crew team.

The son of John and Claudia Weisner of Midlothian, Va., Weisner’s long-range goals include working as a fire fighter in a large urban fire department, being part of the Homeland Security Department and possibly working with the newly formed Secret Service Fire Department, which responds to emergency conditions at the White House. Eventually, he wants to be division manager for the Emergency Services Branch of the U.S. Fire Administration.

“Markus is amazingly talented and very articulate,” said James H. Aylor, interim dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. “He knows what he wants to do and goes after it.”

Nicole F. Hurd, assistant dean and director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence, agrees: “Markus is a young man of exceptional talent. His commitment to public service, especially with the Charlottesville City Fire Department, and his ability to contribute in a variety of environments -- from the Engineering School, to the Residence Life Program, to the Red Cross -- and his experiences with international study captured the attention of the U.Va. committee and the Mitchell Scholarship. There is no doubt Markus will build bridges of understanding and gain great insight during his time in Ireland.”

Weisner “does a great job,” praises Charles L. Werner, deputy fire chief for Charlottesville. “He has the unique characteristic of looking at the broader picture and at higher levels.”

Werner, who has helped his young fire fighting colleague with internship applications, said studying abroad is “a great opportunity” for Weisner because it will expose him to how fire services are run in other countries.

“He has a great personality,” Werner added. “He’s helpful, creative, and always thinking about new things.”

A dual U.S. and German citizen, Weisner enrolled in U.Va. in 1999, after graduating from James River High School in Richmond. Initially set to graduate in 2003, he extended his time to earn a degree by working and studying overseas. He spent a year in Germany, doing research for DaimlerChrysler on a new metal alloy for Mercedes Benz engine valves. He came back to U.Va. for another year and a half of study, then returned to Europe for a semester to take all of his systems engineering classes in German at the Universität Konstanz. He returned to U.Va. in spring 2003.

This is the third consecutive year that a U.Va. student has received the Mitchell award. Launched in 1998, the Mitchell Scholarship recognizes outstanding young Americans who exhibit the highest standards of academic excellence, leadership and community service. The scholarship, administered by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance, a non-partisan, non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., is named in honor of the pivotal role George J. Mitchell, the former U.S. senator from Maine, played in the Northern Ireland peace process. The Mitchell Scholarship program links future American leaders to Ireland.

There were 220 applicants from 166 American colleges and universities for this year’s 12 awards.

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