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*The Rhodes scholarship is celebrated on this date in 1902. It is one of the most prestigious and oldest international fellowship programs for graduates and prolific intellectuals worldwide. Created and named after South African mining magnate Cecil John Rhodes, the program brings together more than 80 scholars each year from South Africa, Australia, Canada, Botswana, India, Kenya, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Germany, Jamaica, and the United States, from which 32 scholars are chosen. Scholars are awarded scholarships worth $50,000 each for two years of study at Oxford University.
Alain Locke was the first Black to win a Rhodes scholarship in 1907, igniting a legacy of excellence that African American students would carry over the next century. In fact, over the past four decades, Blacks have won a Rhodes scholarship almost every year. That’s interesting because Rhodes was known to be a “brutal racist.” Here is a 2014 list of America’s most gifted Black writers, educators, future doctors, and change-makers who have utilized this scholarship to raise the bar of African American academic success:
*John Edgar Wideman (1963) Wideman was the second African American in history to be named a Rhodes Scholar. Since graduating from Oxford University in 1966, he has written 20 books. Wideman is Asa Messer, Professor and Professor of Africana Studies and English at Brown University.
*Robin S. Hadley (1984). She became the first African American female from the South and the third African American female ever to receive the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.
*Susan Rice (1986). She serves as President Obama’s close adviser and the first African American woman U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The early stages of her prestigious career comprised earning a master’s and a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford.
*Nenna Lynch (1992). She earned a master’s degree in social anthropology. She was also a collegiate athlete, winning the NCAA 3,000 meter event in the 1992-1993 seasons. People Magazine, one of the 50 most beautiful people, honored the former investment banker in 1994. Today, Lynch is a senior policy adviser to the deputy mayor for economic development in New York City.
*Cory Booker (1992). The popular mayor of Newark and New Jersey senator has an impressive political resume and an even more impressive academic history. After graduating from Stanford University with a bachelor’s in political science and a master’s degree in sociology, Booker earned a bachelor’s in modern history at Oxford in 1994 as a Rhodes Scholar. He continued his education at Yale Law School and graduated in 1997.
*Randal Pinkett (1994). Before he became the first Black to win season 4 of The Apprentice TV show, Pinkett was the first and only Black from his alma mater, Rutgers University, to receive a Rhodes Scholarship. He earned a Master of Science degree in computer science from the University of Oxford in 1994. He earned another master of science in electrical engineering, an MBA, and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Pinkett is the president and CEO of BCT Partners, a multimillion-dollar consulting firm based in Newark, NJ, specializing in program management, information technology, and public policy.
*Carla Peterman (1998). This Oakland native and Howard University alum became the first Black female from an HBCU to earn the prestigious honor of Rhodes Scholar. At Oxford, she earned her MBA. Peterman became a stellar researcher at the University of California Energy Institute at Haas and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She has co-authored a series of publications on cost and deployment trends in the U.S. solar photovoltaic market. Most recently, Peterman was appointed to the California Energy Commission. *Rachel Mazyck (2005). She graduated from Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina when she was only 19 years old 2002. Before becoming a Rhodes Scholar, Mazyck attended Harvard Graduate School of Education and earned a master’s in education policy and management. She has since written about and explored ways to close the achievement gap in American education.
*Garrett Johnson (2006). Garrett Johnson proves that talented athletes can also be exceptional students. In 2005, he became the Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sports Scholar at his alma mater, Florida State University, where he was one of the NCAA’s elite shot putters. He graduated magna cum laude in three years with a double major in political science and English. He became a Rhodes Scholar and earned a master’s in migration studies. Johnson recently served as a United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations staffer.
*Myron Rolle (2008). Rolle was a starting free safety on Florida State’s football team who was training for the NFL’s draft day when he decided to go a different route. That alternative route consisted of being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, where he enrolled in a master’s degree program in medical anthropology. After Rhodes, the Tennessee Titans drafted him. Eventually, he wants to become a neurosurgeon and continue fulfilling his philanthropic duties as head of the Myron L. Rolle Foundation.
*Ugwechi Amadi (2010). This North Carolina native is pursuing a master’s of science in psychological research at Oxford. Being a Black woman in math and science, she understands the need for more women of color, and for that reason, she has served as a mentor to middle school girls through MIT’s Science Technology & Math program (STEM). One day, the exceptionally gifted academic hopes to become a neurologist.
*Darryl W. Finkton (2010). When his school magazine at Harvard University interviewed Finkton shortly after earning a Rhodes Scholarship, he was asked about his life’s ambition. He said, “My life goal is to remove income as one of the life expectancy factors.” Finkton is on the road to doing just that. As a freshman, the Indianapolis native co-founded a sustainable water delivery system for a community in Ghana. At Harvard, he studied neurobiology with a secondary concentration in African and African American studies. As a Rhodes Scholar, he is pursuing a master of science in global health and wants to earn his M.B.A.
*Esther Uduehi (2010). When Uduehi’s parents moved to the U.S. from Nigeria, they intended to pursue a better life, which included academics. Uduehi has fully embraced this ambition, having chosen to attend Oxford University next October under the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship Program. Uduehi is scheduled to graduate from Indiana University with a dual degree in biochemistry and mathematics. She is also the co-founder of the IU Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS). Uduehi intends to pursue a career in medicinal chemistry research.
*Fagan Harris (2011). A native of Glen Burnie, MD, Harris is completing a master’s degree in human rights in criminal justice at the University of Limerick in Ireland as a Mitchell Scholar. He plans to pursue a doctorate of philosophy in education at Oxford. Harris is also working for an Irish government program that aims to improve the quality of life for residents in two neighborhoods in Limerick City. This community has endured severe social problems and high-profile criminal activities.
*Brandon E. Turner (2012). When he entered the select Rhodes Scholar circle, Turner was a senior biophysics major at Wake Forest University. His internationally coveted prize is two years of study at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. *Robert A. Fisher (2014) is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is majoring in political science with minors in history and African studies. He previously won a Truman Scholarship. Fisher is the student body president at the university and has a perfect academic record. Fisher will study for a master’s in comparative social policy at Oxford. *Rachel V. Harmon is from Champaign, Ill. She is a senior at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., majoring in industrial and labor relations. Before starting her college career, Harmon was an AmeriCorps volunteer at a rural elementary school in the Mississippi Delta. She plans to study for a master’s degree in evidence-based social policy at Oxford. *Ridwan Y. Hassen is a senior at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. He is majoring in computer science with an emphasis on neuroscience. He began his college career at Emory University and transferred to Dartmouth after two years. He is the son of refugees from Somalia and Ethiopia. At Dartmouth, he is a member of the Endurance Racing Team. Hassen plans to pursue a master’s degree in public policy at Oxford.
*Tayo A. Sanders II is a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire senior in materials science. Sanders previously won a Goldwater Scholarship. He has researched the nanomaterials laboratory at the University of Strasbourg in France. Sanders is a triathlete. At Oxford, Sanders plans to earn a Ph.D. in materials science. *Sarah E. Yerima is a senior at Princeton University in New Jersey. She is majoring in sociology. During the summer of 2013, Yerima completed an intensive program in Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro. She will enroll in a two-year master’s degree program in politics at Oxford. After studying at Oxford, Yerima plans to enter a joint J.D./Ph.D. program and hopes to become a law professor. *Cameron D. Clarke 2017: is a senior at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He is the fourth Howard student to win a Rhodes Scholarship. Clarke is majoring in community health education and biology. He is the news editor of the student newspaper at Howard and serves as an intern for the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology at the U.S. House of Representatives. Clarke plans to study for a master’s in primary health care at Oxford.
*Aryn A. Frazier is a senior at the University of Virginia, double majoring in politics and African American and African studies. Frazier is president of the Black Student Alliance at the university. Frazier, a resident of Laurel, Maryland, plans to study for a master’s degree in comparative politics at Oxford.
*Christian E. Nattiel from Madeira Beach, Florida, is a United States Military Academy senior at West Point, New York. At West Point, Nattiel is double-majoring in mathematical sciences and philosophy and is a member of the academy’s handball team. At Oxford, Nattiel will study for a master’s in comparative social and public policy.
*Olivia A. Klevorn is a senior at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. A native of Chicago, Klevorn is majoring in anthropology. At Yale, Klevorn is the director of the Heritage Theatre Ensemble and president of a student-run poetry association. She will study for a Ph.D. in socio-legal studies at Oxford.
*Aaron C. Robertson of Redford, Michigan, is a Princeton University in New Jersey. He is majoring in Italian and focuses his research on Afro-Italian literature. At Princeton, he is the co-editor-in-chief of the Nassau Literary Review. Robertson plans to pursue a master’s degree in modern languages at Oxford.
*Ahmed M. Ahmed is a biology major at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He is a resident of Rochester, Minnesota. His research focuses on developing new synthetic strategies for producing polymers. He is the son of immigrants from Somalia. Ahmed will study for a master’s in organic and medical chemistry at Oxford.
*Caylin L. Moore is a football team member at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. A resident of Carson, California, Moore is majoring in economics at TCU. He was raised in poverty and was homeless. His father was convicted of a life sentence for murder. Moore founded an organization of student-athletes encouraging children from disadvantaged groups to attend college. He will study public policy as a Rhodes Scholar. *Arielle Hudson is the 27th Ole Miss student selected for the prestigious program. A 2019 English education major, Hudson plans to pursue dual master’s degrees in comparative social policy and comparative international education as a Rhodes recipient. Then, she plans to return to the Mississippi Delta to fulfill a five-year teaching requirement for her scholarship. *Danielle Grey-Stewart is a senior at MIT majoring in Materials Science and
Engineering. In addition to being a student leader at MIT’s Center for Public Service, Grey-Stewart is the current chair of the Undergraduate Association Committee on COVID-19. It serves on the Student Advisory Group for Engineering. According to her profile, Grey-Stewart will “responsibly use the elegance of engineering to address the immense inequity within our society” and integrate historically ignored perspectives into science policy.
Samantha C.W. O’Sullivan (2022), a senior at Harvard College, majors in Physics and African-American Studies. At Harvard, she founded a student organization that promotes activism related to the legacy of slavery. Samantha has done advanced research in plasma physics at Princeton nanoscale systems at Harvard and the University of Maryland and astrophysics at the Carnegie Institute of Astrophysics. She will pursue the MSt in Philosophy of Physics and the MSc in Applied Linguistics at Oxford.