Campus Life

UWF welcomes third consecutive class of National Merit Finalists

The University of West Florida welcomed its third consecutive class of National Merit Finalists this fall, for a total of nine finalists enrolled since fall 2017.

UWF President Martha D. Saunders with 2019 UWF National Merit Finalists Adeline Watson and Shane Durepo

Adeline Watson and Shane Durepo were among approximately 16,000 students across the country who met the requirements for Finalist standing, out of an estimated 1.6 million high school juniors who participated in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship competition. They earned UWF’s top scholarship with a total value of more than $50,000, including full tuition, room and board, a $600-per-semester book stipend and a research stipend.

“These students are brilliant, hardworking and display attributes that we should all aspire to achieve,” said UWF President Martha D. Saunders. “Each recipient brings a unique background and will flourish at UWF as students, researchers, and leaders from the moment they enroll in their first course.”

Durepo, a legal studies major from Cape Coral, Florida, chose UWF for its partnership with the Florida State University College of Law.

“Being able to acquire a juris doctor degree from Florida’s best graduate law school with six years total post-secondary education is an incredible opportunity that I couldn’t pass up,” said Durepo, who aspires to be an intellectual property lawyer with a specialization in artificial intelligence.

Watson, a chemistry major from Florence, Alabama, said UWF emerged as her choice during her campus tour.

“When I received information about UWF’s National Merit Scholarship, I was sure it was too good to be true,” Watson said. “I toured the campus in February and I fell in love with the University, its focus on undergraduate research and the obvious commitment to undergraduate students. Every detail about UWF seemed to fit me perfectly.”

Watson said her future goals include enrolling in a dual MD/Ph.D. program to eventually become a medical school professor.

“These high-achieving students chose the University of West Florida and all of the good that comes with it,” said Dr. Kim LeDuff, vice president for academic engagement and student affairs. “Our programs, dedicated faculty and unwavering academic support will be alongside them throughout their collegiate journey.”

The University also hosted its annual President’s Scholarship Competition, which awards top Florida high school graduates who show potential to serve as future leaders with the institution’s most prestigious scholarship. The Pace Presidential Scholarship is offered in conjunction with Florida Bright Futures and covers on-campus room and board, tuition, a $600 book stipend and a research experience, totaling more than $50,000.

The five students who were awarded the scholarship include:

  • Sarah Goldberg, legal studies major from Milton High School in Milton.
  • Jay Callahan, biomedical sciences major from Cantonment.
  • Michaela Franklin, biomedical sciences major from Baker High School in Baker.
  • Domani Turner-Ward, natural sciences major from the Collegiate High School at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville.
  • Alexandra Johnson, pre-BSN major from Trinitas Christian School in Pensacola.
For more information about the 2019 premier scholarship recipients, visit For more information on all undergraduate scholarship opportunities, visit