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First two Maj. Brent Taylor Scholarship recipients named

Scholarship honors Taylor's life of public service and benefits graduate students in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

The University of Utah College of Social and Behavioral Science has named Nick Blas and Russell Facer as the first two recipients of the Maj. Brent R. Taylor Scholarship. Blas is a Ph.D. student in political science and Facer is a master’s student in public administration.

In memory of Taylor, this annual scholarship aims to inspire remarkable Ph.D. students in political science and/or master students in public administration to complete their educations and live a life of servant leadership, just as Taylor did. Within less than a year, the endowed scholarship fund has grown to more than $75,000 thanks to the generosity of several lead donors and support of many people in the community who knew Taylor. The foundation’s next goal is to reach $100,000.

Find information about the Brent Taylor Foundation here.

Meet Brent Taylor

Taylor died in the line of duty in Afghanistan in 2018. He earned a master of public administration from the U in 2013 and was on track to graduate with a Ph.D. in political science when he died. The U awarded Taylor a Ph.D. posthumously in May 2019.

At the time of his deployment, Taylor was serving as mayor of North Ogden. Inspired to serve his country and community, Taylor enlisted in the military following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and served on the North Ogden city council before his election as mayor in 2013. He and his wife Jennie are the parents of seven children.

“Our hearts ache every day over the loss of our dear husband, father, son and brother, Major Brent Taylor,” Jennie Taylor said. “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.”

Meet Nick Blas

Blas is an active duty U.S. Air Force officer, with the rank of lieutenant colonel, pursuing a Ph.D. in political science. His dissertation topic explores how strategic narratives influence national security strategy and foreign policy—particularly how the post-9/11 narrative influenced the strategy against terrorism. He will use the scholarship to travel to the National Archives to examine primary sources and code and score research material.

“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.”

Meet Russell Facer

Facer is a member of the Utah National Guard and pursuing a master’s degree in public administration, hoping to work in city or state government “in which I believe that I can make the most difference,” he said. The scholarship allows him to focus on his education without the worry of how to finance it.

Taylor’s career of service inspired Facer and provided an example of balancing civilian and military life. “He was a great leader,” he said, “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.”

About the scholarship

“This scholarship is special,” said Cynthia Berg, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Science, “because Brent was a two-time graduate of the college with his MPA and his near completion of his Ph.D. while he was serving our country and as mayor. He was loved and respected statewide and those who receive this scholarship will, in essence, allow his legacy of servant leadership to live on as they serve the communities in which they live.”

Donations still accepted

“Our family is thrilled to know that these young students will be given financial assistance in pursuit of their college degrees,” Jennie Taylor said. “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 this scholarship fund.”

Find instructions for donating to the scholarship fund here.