Federal File

April 14, 2004 2 min read

Not for Members Only

It’s not the kind of place you’d probably associate with a federal scholarship program. But when the board of trustees of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation met last month to choose some of the shooting stars of the next generation, the session took place amid the dark wood paneling, plush couches, and crystal chandeliers of the private Cosmos Club in Washington.

For the trustees of the federally financed organization named for the 1964 Republican presidential nominee, such meetings mean weighing whether to award a scholarship to the student seeking a Ph.D. in molecular evolution, say, or the one who wants to research diseases of the central nervous system.

Gerald J. Smith, the president of the Arlington, Va.-based Goldwater Foundation, said the club was chosen for the trustees’ March 18 annual meeting because it is comfortable, easy to get to, and a former president of the scholarship foundation happens to be a member.

And the Cosmos Club’s origins suggest it’s a good fit in another way. Founded in 1878, the club’s objective is “the advancement of its members in science, literature, and art.”

Mr. Smith, a former aide to Mr. Goldwater, said the foundation’s $7,500 scholarships in science, mathematics, and engineering celebrate the late Arizonan’s five terms in the U.S. Senate and his interest in technology. The scholarship fund, which was established by Congress as a $40 million trust fund in 1986, gives away $3 million a year, he said.

This year was the second time the foundation’s board met at the Cosmos Club. It used to meet on Capitol Hill until tighter security measures complicated the task of delivering the boxes of paperwork needed for the meetings.

Mr. Smith lamented the lack of public attendance at the meetings and said he hoped the tony atmosphere of the Cosmos Club might attract walk-ins rather than deter them. He said he’d like more people to know about the amazing students the foundation sponsors.

“These are not kids with pocket protectors and fuzzy hair,” he said. “These kids are just unbelievable.”

For the record, while the public is invited to attend the Goldwater Foundation meetings there, anyone wanting to join the Cosmos Club will need recommendations from two current club members and endorsements from four others. They will also need to fork over a $1,500 initiation fee and $1,500 in annual dues.

—By Michelle R. Davis