Utah students awarded scholarships in memory of Major Brent Taylor


Major Brent Taylor, 39, of Ogden passed away on November 3, 2018 near Kabul Afghanistan while training members of the Afghan National Army. The husband and father of seven took a leave of absence from his role as mayor of North Ogden in order to serve his country in Afghanistan. He was killed during an insider attack. Following Taylor’s death, President Donald Trump signed a bill to name a department of Veteran’s Affairs facility after the Utah mayor.

Utah (ABC4 News) — Four Utah college students have been chosen as recipients of the 2020 Major Brent Taylor Memorial Scholarships, according to Major Taylor’s widow, Jennie Taylor.

Major Brent Taylor served as mayor of North Ogden. He took a leave of absence after being deployed to Afghanistan, where he was killed in the line of duty in 2018.

The scholarships awarded in his name were given to students at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah, which are the two schools that Major Taylor attended. The scholarships follow his own academic path. At BYU, the award was given to undergraduate students majoring in Political Science, while at the U of U, the award is given to graduate students pursuing an MPA and doctoral candidates in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. At the time of his death, Major Taylor was close to completing his doctorate degree at the University of Utah in International Relations. He was awarded the degree posthumously in May 2019.

Information about the recipients of the scholarship is included below.

University of Utah Recipients:

Nick Blas: Blas is an active duty U.S. Air Force officer, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in political science.

“Major Taylor, and others that I know who have given their last full measure of devotion to our nation, are the reason I chose my dissertation topic,” Blas said. “I’ve deployed five times, and I feel like I owe it to those who did not make it back. I think it’s a necessity that we fully understand and explore the national security decisions and influences that have encompassed the last 19 years since we first went into Afghanistan. I owe that to Major Taylor, his family, and others like them.”

Russell Facer: Facer is a member of the Utah National Guard and pursuing a master’s degree in public administration. He hopes to work in city or state government.

“He was a great leader,” Face said of Taylor, “and I was grateful to be able to learn lessons in leadership from him as he commanded the recruit sustainment program that I was in when I first came into the National Guard. I hope that in some way I can follow in the legacy that Major Taylor has left, whether in the Army or in my career in public service.”

Brigham Young University recipients:

Harrison Mayer: He is an Army ROTC cadet studying political science with minors in political analysis and data analytics, as well as German and military science. He will commission as an Army officer in spring of 2021 and hopes to be assigned either to cyber warfare or military intelligence.

Brandon Orullian: He is a senior at BYU studying Political Science and minoring in Business. He has a passion for people, loves learning about the world around him, and enjoys traveling and reading. He plans to further his education by attending law school after graduation and pursuing a career as an attorney.

Jennie Taylor offered the following statement about her late husband and the scholarships:

“Our hearts ache every day over the loss of our dear husband, father, son and brother, Major Brent Taylor. At the same time, our hearts are full of gratitude to all those who have been so kind and compassionate to our family in our time of grief. These memorial scholarships are a way to help keep Brent’s memory alive for generations to come, and to give back to the community and state that we are so proud to call “home,” she said.

“Our family is thrilled to know that these young students will be given financial assistance in pursuit of their college degrees.  We are so impressed with each of them, and feel they are well suited to carry on the legacy Brent has left behind–the legacy of academic excellence and service-oriented leadership.  We are excited to see what these scholarship recipients are able to do in the years ahead in their professional, civic and personal lives, and we are grateful for all those who have generously donated to these scholarship funds.”

The University of Utah’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences was the first to establish an endowed scholarship fund after Brent’s death, and the first donations were made by Brent’s professors and fellow students. Jennie Taylor then contacted Brigham Young University to establish a similar fund there.

The public fundraising effort for the scholarship began on July 6, 2019 on what would have been Major Taylor’s 40th birthday. Other key sponsors include The George S. and Dolores Eccles Foundation, The Miller Family Foundation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation, America First Credit Union, and many of Brent’s friends, family members and fellow BYU/U of U alumni.

$60,000 was given to BYU and $75,000 to the U of U for the scholarships. The scholarships are endowed, meaning the funds held by each university are invested for the long-term, and the amount granted each year comes from the interest earned on those investments.  This allows the universities to hand out the scholarships every year, though the dollar amounts may vary.

This year, the scholarships will cover about half of the four students’ tuition.

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