SF State Nursing student named Tillman Scholar

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

James Alex Speaks head shot

James Alexander Speaks, an undergraduate Nursing student, was selected as a 2020 Tillman Scholar by the Pat Tillman Foundation. The scholar program supports our nation’s active duty service members, veterans and military spouses by investing in education and professional development. 


As a 2020 Tillman Scholar, Speaks is one of 60 leaders united by their military service, academic passions, and desire to make an impact. In recognition of their service and leadership potential, the scholars receive scholarship funding to pursue higher education and continue their service in the fields of health care, business, law, public service, STEM, education and the humanities. 

Speaks was eight years old when he watched the attacks unfold on 9/11. Motivated by the countless tales of heroic men and women serving in the ensuing War on Terror, he enlisted as an infantryman in the U.S. Marine Corps shortly after finishing high school.

During his four-year tenure as a Marine, Speaks served on two combat deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. Those deployments proved to be transformative for him as he was struck by the staggering amount of civilian casualties and the general lack of medical infrastructure in the war-ravaged communities. At the same time, he was moved by the actions of the Navy corpsmen with whom he served as they plied their life-saving craft on the many military and civilian casualties they encountered. Ultimately, these experiences sparked his desire to bring quality healthcare to vulnerable and underserved populations.

After completing his undergraduate Nursing degree at SF State, Speaks hopes to move on to a dual Master of Nursing/Master of Public Health degree program. He plans on combining his leadership experience and medical knowledge to have an impactful career with Doctors Without Borders. His goal is to help transform health care on an individual and structural level for the countless victims that are caught in humanitarian crises throughout the world.

Source: Pat Tillman Foundation