The Van Doren Scholars

Frequently Asked Questions

About the Van Doren Scholarships

About the Van Doren Scholarships

For Peter Ellis Van Doren, a strong passion for learning was the key to a full and satisfying life. Since 1995, recognizing and encouraging passionate curiosity in others has been his legacy.

  • How many Van Doren grants are awarded?

    • Since the program’s inception, the Selection Committee has recognized approximately ten to fifteen Scholars each year, a number that varies closely with the quality of applications received.

  • How much money do Van Doren Scholars receive?

    • Each Van Doren Scholarship is different, but amounts reflect a.) the amount of money available to be disbursed from Mr. Van Doren’s estate for that year, b.) the number of Finalists recognized by the Selection Committee, and c.) individual variations that reflect the Selection Committee’s best judgment as to how an award will cultivate qualities Mr. Van Doren prized.

      Generally, we seek to enable a real difference in each recipient’s scholarly career. Occasionally, an applicant’s financial need factors into this equation (although never as a selection criteria). The Selection Committee believes that fewer, larger awards best reflect the merits our applicants bring to the competition and enhance the reputation of all Van Doren Scholars as a class.

  • What schools do Van Doren Scholars attend?

    • While highly selective schools are often well represented, Van Doren scholars attend big schools and little schools, nearby schools and schools all over the world. Our 2017 Scholars attend Brown, Stevens Institute of Technology, Colby, Harvard, Indiana University Jacobus School of Music, Georgetown School of Foreign Service, Northwestern, Penn, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, and Raritan Valley CC.

  • Who was Peter Ellis Van Doren?

    • Peter Ellis Van Doren died in 1994 in Peapack, New Jersey, leaving no known relatives. Upon his death, he instructed that his estate should endow a scholarship fund that would recognize meritorious students from surrounding Somerset County towns. Van Doren’s instructions were very specific about the selection criterion for his scholarships; he wanted to reward men and women who exhibit a strong commitment to lifelong learning, exemplary character, and compassion. Little else is known about Mr. Van Doren, who became reclusive in his later years. In his papers, he alluded to an early career as a draftsman and mapmaker for the Army Air Corps and later for the aerospace industry. He never married and left no children of his own. He seems to have lived quietly, but as an acknowledged eccentric who fed himself from a simple kitchen garden. While Mr. Van Doren’s endowment currently funds approximately $40,000 each year in scholarships, his true legacy must be accorded the dozen or so promising young people who share his gifts each year.



Get news & announcements about the VanDoren Scholars delivered right to your email box!