Based On Merit

One-and-a-half million high school students want one. Less than one percent of those students even have a chance of getting one. OSU-OKC’s Dr. Bill Pink is a member of the elite committee that awards them. They are National Merit Scholarships, and Pink, the school’s vice president of Academic Affairs, is the first representative from the college to serve on the National Merit Scholarship selection committee. Last year, Pink reviewed 16,000 applications. And, he says, every single one was worth the time and effort.

Oklahoma Magazine: How did you get appointed to the committee?
Dr. Bill Pink: I’m a co-chair on a national advisory committee with the College Board. This committee plans a College Board conference focused on the future of African American education. My colleagues on the committee are from all over the country. One of the individuals that I work with on that committee recommended me to the National Merit Scholarship committee. Upon his recommendation I got a phone call last fall to see if I was interested in participating. That’s an invitation that you don’t say no to. Another factor with my selection was that it’s been since 1987 since they’ve had somebody from Oklahoma on the committee. It was time to get Oklahoma represented on that committee again.

OM: What do you look for in candidates?
BP: We see what we call the best of the best in our country. We see good academic scores. We see a lot of extracurricular activities. But we also see students that are on a whole different level. One of last year’s applicants filed for a patent on an invention he designed to help his sick mother. We saw students that created phone apps for increasing productivity. We had a student so good with music that he gave piano recitals around the world. We see students that go above and beyond the grades and the extracurricular activities. Some of these students spent summers at research institutions around the world, working in areas like bioengineering and other sciences. They’re working hand in hand with graduate students to produce cutting edge research. And they call this their ‘off time.’ These are the students we look for.

OM: With 16,000 applications, the process must be grueling. What’s the reward?
BP: Everyone should have a chance to review National Merit Scholarship applications. They give me a feeling that we have a generation of citizens coming up in this country that is impressive and focused on how they can make their country better. It makes me feel good to review those. It’s really a gratifying experience. It makes me feel good about our future.

OM: What does Bill Pink do in his spare time?
BP: I’m heavily involved with my church. I’m a worship minister. My faith and my family mean a lot to me. Those are two vital pieces of who I am that will always be there. They’re at the top of my list as far as what my priorities are. If we’re talking about hobbies, golfing and fishing come up quite often.