Building on the rich history of the Frederick Douglass Scholarship, Provost Scott Bass established the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars (FDDS) program, offering the largest merit-based scholarship in the history of American University (AU).

Professor Charles Tesconi led a team of AU faculty and staff in the benchmarking and review of academic enrichment and student support programs to shape Provost Bass' vision for the FDDS program.

Professor Tesconi and his team advised Vice Provost Phyllis Peres in the selection of the program's founding director. Vice Provost Peres selected Larry P. Thomas as the Inaugural Director of the FDDS program.

As the architect of the FDDS program, Director Thomas wrote a six-year strategic plan to design a leadership development and graduate/professional school preparation program for a new generation of socially responsible leaders. Director Thomas established and chaired the High Standards Council, a program advisory committee of faculty and staff.


Professor Joshua Woodfork is appointed inaugural Faculty Liaison, facilitating student-faculty engagement and program collaboration with the schools and colleges.


The High Standards Council is renamed the FDDS Faculty Advisory Committee. Professor Russell Williams is appointed Chair.


Professor Keith Leonard replaces Professor Williams as Chair of the FDDS Faculty Advisory Committee. AU recognizes the FDDS program as the best and the brightest.


The FDDS program celebrates its fifth anniversary with the graduation of the inaugural class.

Matt Lien becomes the first FDDS inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.


The American College Personnel Association presents the Voice of Inclusion Medallion - Exemplary Program Award to the FDDS program.

The Heart Foundations awarded AU a $75,000 grant to support FDDS program operations and student development.

MSNBC and the FDDS program host a conversation Secretary Castro and Congressman Castro.

Professor Leonard is appointed inaugural Faculty Director. Director Thomas becomes inaugural Managing Director.

Candace Evilsizor becomes the first FDDS to receive American University's Presidents Award.

Daniel Marks becomes the first FDDS to earn a Public Policy & International Affairs Fellowship.

AU celebrates the FDDS as undergraduate student leaders who give back.


Nkemdilim Chukwuma was selected as student speaker for Kogod commencement.

Stephanie Vela was selected as student speaker for CAS commencement.

Justin Morgan and Jessica Rothman become the first FDDS to earn Spotlight Health scholarships from the Aspen Institute. Additionally, the Institute selected Director Thomas as a 2016 Aspen Ideas Festival Scholar.

Black Enterprise features the award-winning FDDS program in an article entitled " Scholarship Rewards Students Looking to Change the World."