32 Chosen As Rhodes Scholars
Matthew Baugh knew he was making an impact on public health in rural Haiti when he overheard someone in the local marketplace singing a song Baugh had penned about hypertension.
In Creole swing time, it went: Don’t get dehydrated. Don’t smoke or drink too much coffee. Get frequent checkups. An inexpensive medication is available.
On Saturday, Baugh was named one of 32 American students chosen to receive Rhodes scholarships for two to three years’ study at Oxford University in England.
Other recipients include an AIDS researcher, a prison tutor, a theater director and students who have worked with people in need around the globe.
``This is my first attempt at songwriting,″ said Baugh, 21, a Duke University senior from Raleigh, N.C. He also wrote a lullaby about breast-feeding and short programs on health issues from parasites to prenatal care for a radio audience of about 40,000.
The Rhodes scholarship, created from the will of British philanthropist and colonialist Cecil Rhodes, is the oldest international study award available to American scholars. Winners are selected on the basis of high academic achievement, personal integrity, leadership potential and physical vigor, among other attributes.
Winners this year were chosen from 950 applicants endorsed by 327 colleges and universities; Yale led with three recipients. So far, 2,918 Americans have won the scholarships.
Expectations are high for the scholars, who follow in the footsteps of President Clinton, Supreme Court Justice David Souter, three members of the Senate and four members of Congress, said Elliot Gerson, American secretary of the Rhodes Scholarship Trust.
``We look for people to play an influential part in the future of society, wherever their careers might lead them,″ Gerson said. ``As every year, it’s an extraordinary group of young people.″
Indiana University senior Raju Raval, of Fort Wayne, Ind., said he may follow his studies at Oxford by seeking a career as a cancer researcher or a role in public health policy. He said the death of his mother, Chandrika, four years ago, helped focus his interest in medicine.
``I don’t look at it as an achievement,″ Raval said of the Rhodes scholarship. ``I look at it as an opportunity.″
When he found out he’d won, Luke A. Bronin, a Greenwich, Conn., resident and Yale student, called his parents, who were driving to pick him up.
``They tried not to crash and screamed,″ he said.
The 21-year-old history and philosophy major started a tutoring program in the New Haven Correctional Center.
``It’s difficult every time I go in there,″ Bronin said, noting that many of the inmates are his age. ``But it’s also been really rewarding in a lot of ways.″
Another Yale recipient, Brian Mullin, 21, of Milton, Mass., has directed six plays and written and performed another.
``Obviously I feel very excited,″ he said. ``It all happens very quickly.″
The third Yale student chosen was Joshua A. Chafetz of Houston, who works with a homeless project in New Haven, Conn., and founded a program to bring North African leaders to the Yale campus.
Chafetz said many of the attributes that allowed him to be named a Rhodes scholar were acquired at Yale. ``There is no barrier between professors and students at Yale,″ he said. ``That is the sort of thing that really makes an education outstanding.″
The U.S. Military Academy had two winners this year. Seth Bodnar, 21, is the top student in his class and regimental commander in charge of 1,000 cadets. The Franklin, Pa., resident said West Point prepared him to be a leader.
``You want to try to make a contribution here,″ he said, ``here at West Point and here in general.″
The other winner, Nicholas O. Melin of Fox Point, Wis., is one of several scholarship recipients who have worked to help the needy abroad. Melin, a civil engineering graduate, has designed quick and durable temporary housing for refugees.
Fellow winner Lipika Goyal, 21, of the University of Pennsylvania, has studied malnutrition in the slums of New Delhi and sickle cell anemia and malaria in Ghana. The Scotch Plains, N.J., resident plans to become a doctor.
``I definitely came away with the notion that they’re not Ghanaian children or Indian children who are suffering, they’re just children.″
Another winner, Amherst College senior Jordan A. Krall, has done research on the AIDS virus and plans to study synthetic chemistry at Oxford. The 21-year-old Encino, Calif. native was a starting shortstop for the Amherst baseball team.
``I don’t know if it has sunk in yet,″ he said. ``I don’t think I said anything for five or 10 minutes.″
Similarly shocked was Westley W. Moore, a senior at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
``I almost wanted them to repeat it to make sure they got it right,″ he said. Moore, 22, a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves and a varsity football player, basketball player, actor and gospel choir singer, plans to study international relations.
Chemistry major Miles J. Sweet of Fairfield, Maine, is the first student from Wheaton College in Massachusetts to win the scholarship.
``I am glad Wheaton is able to get the recognition it deserves,″ said the 21-year-old senior, who is also principal timpanist in a symphony orchestra. ``I am honored and overwhelmed.″
Harvard University, which has had 295 winners over the years _ the most of any U.S. institution _ did not have any recipients this year. Yale has produced the second-highest number of Rhodes scholars, with 200. Princeton, with one recipient this year, is third with 182. West Point is fourth with 73.
On the Net: http://www.rhodesscholar.org