January 05, 2021

Encouraging and Assisting American Indian Students

The Dr. Walter Anyan Scholarship

How a woman from Connecticut who’d not attended nor had any previous ties to the University of South Dakota became a valued contributor to the university’s school of health sciences is more than a good story. It’s an uplifting demonstration of good faith and good will.

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Carol Ann Anyan wanted to honor her husband, Dr. Walter Anyan, after his passing by establishing a scholarship for young American Indians.

Carol Ann Anyan and her late husband, Dr. Walter Anyan, believed deeply in public service and compassionate engagement. They devoted their lives to teaching, helping underserved and poverty-afflicted young people and improving lives in their community. After Dr. Anyan died in 2013, Carol Ann wanted to honor her husband’s life by establishing a scholarship in his name for young American Indians studying health care.

But how and where?

“I wasn’t sure how to proceed so I called the Department of the Interior to obtain a list of tribes in the United States, and then I called the Bureau of Indian Affairs to learn about universities serving American Indians,” recalled Carol Ann.

“I did know I wanted it to be for students attending a public university,” she continued, “and by serendipity and through a circuitous path I ended up talking to the foundation at the University of South Dakota, and they connected me to Mike Lawler, [former] dean of the School of Health Sciences.”

Dr. Anyan, a native of White Plains, New York, was a graduate of Dartmouth and Harvard medical schools. After medical school he served as a captain in the Army Medical Corps, followed by a successful and decorated 48-year career in academic and clinical medicine in the pediatrics department at Yale Medical School. Dr. Anyan established the sub-specialty of adolescent medicine in Yale’s Department of Pediatrics and served as the first section chief.

Dr. Anyan and his nurse practitioners at Yale developed an interest in providing medical services to impoverished young people, founding clinics in numerous area high schools and juvenile detention centers. “It was important for Walter to make health care available to impoverished youth,” said Carol Ann.

“Walter’s interest in American Indians originated when he attended a YMCA camp as a boy and learned about American Indian art,” Carol Ann explained. “Later, he visited reservations in the western United States. He believed that creating opportunities for underserved youth would ripple outward to benefit entire communities.”

Creating a scholarship endowment for American Indians in her late husband’s name was a new adventure for Carol Ann, but USD’s foundation worked closely with her to establish a process and a program.

“The foundation and its staff have done an amazing job at creating and managing this endowment,” said Carol Ann. “They made the process and its details understandable to me, plus they respected my intentions to carry on Walter’s mission to help deserving and needy youth. I have been very impressed with the University of South Dakota and the people I met there.”

The criteria for the scholarship are concise. Recipients are American Indian students from a federally-recognized tribe in South Dakota in at least their sophomore year, meeting grade standards and studying nursing, dental hygiene, public health or mental health and intending to use his or her USD degree to improve the health and well-being of American Indian people on a reservation in South Dakota.

The scholarship is ongoing, meaning a student can continue receiving the scholarship from their sophomore year through their senior year, as long as they meet all requirements. Since 2015, four American Indian students have benefitted from the Dr. Walter Anyan Scholarship. Cailee Cuny, an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, is the current beneficiary. She is studying social work, and although she’s uncertain about her future plans, she is leaning toward a master’s degree in public health.

“I was shocked and very grateful when I learned that I was awarded this scholarship,” Cuny exclaimed. “It’s hard to believe that someone who doesn’t know me would so generously help me as I study here at USD.” Cuny has received scholarships each of the past two semesters, and she will receive a third scholarship this spring.

“Knowing that the scholarship in Walter’s name can make a difference in someone’s life and that that can benefit an entire community is very gratifying,” said Carol Ann. “My husband was a gentle and caring man. He would be pleased.”

Recipient Grateful for Generosity of the Anyan Scholarship

Cailee Cuny had just finished her shift at a restaurant outlet in the Muenster University Center on the USD campus when she took a few minutes to answer questions about her life and the impact of the Dr. Walter Anyan Scholarship.

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Cailee Cuny was the recipient of the Dr. Walter Anyan Scholarship.

Working part time, studying and attending classes full time make for a challenging day. That level of responsibility and commitment constantly remind Cailee to appreciate the generous scholarship she receives.

Cuny, a native of Rapid City, is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. She came to USD knowing she wanted to pursue a career in health care, but unsure about which major to declare. “My mom and my stepdad worked at a hospital, and I went there before and after school,” she explained. “I enjoyed walking through the hospital, and seeing them there, and that motivated me to want to work in a hospital setting.”

Her dad and stepmom live in the Rapid City area, and through the years they have welcomed American Indian foster children into their home. “Being part of a blended family like that and thinking about the foster kids and their backgrounds inspired me to consider social work as my career choice,” said Cuny.

Cuny frequently visited the Pine Ridge Reservation, where her grandparents live.

“Those long visits during the summer,” she explained, “informed me about life on the reservation, the needs of the reservation and the culture found there.”

As Cuny ponders her own future she appreciates the current financial support provided by the Dr. Walter Anyan Scholarship. “I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life,” she declared. “That someone I don’t know would have such faith in me is something I can’t explain. But I intend to give back, to earn the investment of faith that has been placed in me.”