Swinging for the Fences
When Menninger arrived on campus and joined the baseball team, he was immediately reassured. The coaches never made him feel like he had to choose between his studies and his sport. And Caltech provided a scholarship that funded part of his education so he could wholeheartedly pursue his passions—both in the classroom and on the athletic field.
As a Caltech scholar-athlete, Menninger enjoys the friendships and the stress relief that baseball provides. He helps his team any way he can, from serving as captain to filling in as a catcher when the team is short a player in the backstop. In the past two seasons, Menninger has been named to Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s All-Academic Team, which honors students with grade point averages of 3.4 or higher.
“There are a lot of lessons that baseball can teach—it is not just about winning,” Menninger says. “Playing baseball is a means to work on my interpersonal and team-building skills, which have already benefited me in my studies and in my internships.”
Menninger brought his collaboration skills last summer to his internship at Second Spectrum, Inc., a sports analytics startup in Los Angeles that merges data, machine learning, and computer vision tools to help professional athletes enhance their performance. During the school year, he collaborates with chemistry lecturer Nathan Dalleska, who directs Caltech’s Environmental Analysis Center, to create a software program that quickly detects anomalies in data. Menninger also is involved in Caltech’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Engineering Club, which is developing a drone prototype that can land on uneven surfaces. JPL asked the club to tackle this challenge to help prepare for future missions to Mars.
Once he wraps up his studies at Caltech, Menninger will move to the Santa Barbara area to work at Green Hills Software, which was founded by Daniel O’Dowd (BS ’76).
Menninger says he was able to play baseball, take on the internship, and get involved in other Caltech activities in great part because of support from the Robert and Amelia Peeler Scholarship Fund. This fund and many others help Caltech to maintain its need-blind admissions policy and ensure that talented scholars from diverse backgrounds can pursue their studies at the Institute. In the 2015–16 academic year, 52 percent of Caltech’s undergraduates received financial aid.
The scholarship support not only alleviated financial concerns for Menninger and his family, but also bolstered his confidence and ambition.
“When I was accepted to Caltech, it was incredibly reassuring to know that this place believed in me,” Menninger says. “Having a Caltech scholarship means that there is someone else out there who wants me to do well, and it motivates me to take full advantage of my time here.”
Robert L. Peeler
A bequest from the late inventor, chemist, and alumnus Robert L. Peeler (BS ’48) is enabling Caltech undergraduate students to focus less on the cost of their education and more on their dreams and ambitions.
Peeler, who attended Caltech during World War II, was proud of his alma mater and wanted to share the gift of a Caltech education with others. He created the Robert and Amelia Peeler Scholarship Fund—named in honor of his parents—which has supported nine Caltech undergraduates, including Menninger, since 2013.
Gifts such as the Peeler Scholarship enable Caltech to sustain its need-blind admissions policy so that exceptional, passionate, hardworking students like Menninger can realize their potential at Caltech, no matter what their financial means.