Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program Overview

Matt DeButts 2019

History & Purpose: 
Established in 2016, the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program aims to “prepare a new generation
of leaders with a deep academic foundation and the broad skill set to develop creative solutions to effect positive change in the world.” The program stems from the generosity of Stanford University alumnus Phil Knight, MBA '62, American businessman and co-founder of Nike, and numerous benefactors. It is named for Mr. Knight and John L. Hennessy, who was the 10th president of Stanford University and is the academic architect and visionary behind the program. The program offers a transformative experience including opportunities for leadership development, mentorship, and immersive interdisciplinary experiential learning that will produce leaders in government, business, and nonprofits who can creatively address society’s thorniest problems.

Award description: Knight-Hennessy Scholars' educational costs are fully funded for any graduate degree at Stanford. The program provides leadership development, mentorship, and experiential learning opportunities. Scholars learn to communicate, collaborate, and innovate with their fellow Scholars from other disciplines through tailored workshops, individual coaching, and feedback. A particular emphasis is placed on the art of storytelling and supporting Scholars in finding their voices and telling their stories.

While Knight-Hennessy Scholars live within the Stanford graduate community and pursue their studies across the Stanford campus Denning House serves as the hub of the K-H community. This space is dedicated to ongoing interaction among Scholars, distinguished visitors, and program alumni. 

Funding details: The program funds up to the first three years of graduate education, and for those whose degree program exceeds three years (such as MD or PhD programs, or dual- or joint-degree programs) their academic department(s) will fund the remainder of their education to the extent consistent with the department(s) standard funding commitment. During the first three years, Scholars receive: a fellowship applied directly to cover tuition and associated fees, a stipend for living and academic expenses (such as room and board, books, academic supplies, instructional materials, local transportation, and reasonable personal expenses), a travel stipend intended to cover one economy-class ticket for an annual trip to and from Stanford, and potential for supplemental funds to support activities such as conference travel). Scholars who engage in optional research projects during the summer can receive summer funding. Additionally, Scholars pursuing positive impact through social entrepreneurship may be eligible to apply for seed funding. 

Eligibility: Citizens of all countries who are seniors or alums up to five years removed from their graduation from college are eligible. Applicants must be planning to enroll in any full-time graduate degree program at Stanford (for example, but not limited to, DMA, Eng, JD, MA, MBA, MD, MFA, MS, or PhD) or one of Stanford's many joint- and dual-degree options. All fields are welcome, but applicants in philosophy must be pursuing an MA or PhD in philosophy as the second degree in a dual-degree program. Priority will be given to applicants who will spend at least two years at Stanford, as the program emphasizes developing a community cohort of scholars. Applicants may not be currently enrolled in graduate study at Stanford.

The scholarship cannot be deferred. Prospective applicants who plan to defer their enrollment at Stanford should apply to K-H in the year before they would begin their program. For example, if you defer your enrollment to September 2023 you should apply to K-H in 2022.

How to apply & endorsement 

K-H candidates must submit an application to the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program and apply separately to their proposed graduate degree program at Stanford. The Director of Fellowships will provide guidance and application essay support as time allows. See our Knight-Hennessy Application page for more details on how to apply. Institutional endorsement is not required to apply for the K-H. However, if an applicant has been previously endorsed by the Committee on Student Fellowships for other applications and submits a request by August 15th, the Director of Fellowships may be able to submit an endorsement letter on their behalf. Requests for endorsement by other applicants will be determined on a case-by-case basis, and only if they meet the request deadline.  There will, however, be no review by the Committee on Student Fellowships in either case.

Application materials:

The Knight-Hennessy application includes biographical information, two essays, three short answer responses, a resume, all academic transcripts, any standardized test scores required by your Stanford graduate program, two recommendations, and a video supplement. Upon submitting your application you will receive a link to submit your video supplement.

For Recommenders

Content: Recommenders are asked not to comment on academic excellence but to focus on personal traits. They will be asked to complete a character and leadership assessment form and address the questions below. K-H offers this advice for recommenders.

  1. How do you know and interact with the applicant?
  2. How have the applicant's actions and insights benefited others? Please provide specific examples.
  3. What is the most important constructive feedback that you have given the applicant? How did the applicant respond?
  4. How has the applicant changed most since you have known each other?
  5. Is there anything else that we should know about the applicant?

Format and submission: 12 pt font; double spaced; no word limit, though 750 words is considered sufficient; PDF or Word documents drafted in a word processor work well with the online system, to which recommenders will receive an email generated by the applicant. The email will contain the link to the assessment form and a place to upload the letter.

Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program website

Christine Overstreet, Director of Fellowships
212 Converse Hall, 413-542-2536,
Eric Myers, Associate Director, Fellowships


Amherst's most recent Knight Hennessy Scholar is Dakota Foster '18 following our first - Matthew DeButts '14 in 2019. Former finalists include Roger Creel '13, and Richard Altieri '15.