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Teen Becomes Youngest-Ever Rhodes Scholar

December 11, 2002

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) _ At the tender age of 18, Devi Sridhar speaks five languages, earns straight A’s, plays the violin and has co-written a book on Indian mythology.

Now the University of Miami student can add another accolade to her impressive resume: She’s the youngest U.S. Rhodes scholar in the organization’s 100-year history.

``I never actually thought even once about winning and being a Rhodes scholar and how it would feel because it seemed so far away,″ Sridhar said Tuesday. ``So I just took it step by step.″

Sridhar was named one of 32 Americans to receive the scholarship to Oxford University on Sunday, joining a select group that includes former President Clinton, Supreme Court Justice David Souter and ABC’s ``This Week″ host George Stephanopoulos.

Rhodes officials confirmed that Sridhar is the youngest American ever to receive the award. She is 3 1/2 weeks younger than previous record-holder, Michael Lanham, when he was named to the 2000 class out of Centre College in Kentucky.

The daughter of two doctors, Sridhar entered the University of Miami at age 16 in a fast-track program to medical school. But now she plans to study international relations at Oxford, pursue a law degree and work with the United Nations as a health care advocate.

Despite her age, Sridhar survived the notoriously arduous Rhodes vetting process with grace, fending off questions about the biological and cellular mechanism of AIDS and the status of the national debt.

Her supporters point to her long list of accomplishments.

She co-wrote ``Puzzle Your Way Through Indian Mythology″ with her siblings, helped her prep school tennis team win a state title, tutored autistic children, became an accomplished violinist and picked up five languages _ English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Tamil.

Her college GPA was 3.98, with her lone A-minus in genetics.

``She’s the kind of student who immediately makes an impression,″ said Robert Casillo, a University of Miami English professor who taught Sridhar in a summer course two years ago.

Sridhar’s interest in health care caught the attention of University of Miami President Donna Shalala, the former secretary of Health and Human Services under Clinton. Shalala plans to put together a special reading list for her university’s third Rhodes recipient.

``We’re going to spend some time this spring exploring issues of health policy,″ Shalala said. ``Who knows _ she might be secretary of Health and Human Services someday.″

Sridhar won the scholarship a year after her father, noted lung cancer researcher Dr. Kasi Sridhar, died of leukemia and lymphoma at 49.

After Shalala toasted her and other scholarship winners at a university luncheon Tuesday, Sridhar’s mother said she was sad that her husband couldn’t watch their daughter go off to England.

``His children were the most important thing to him. But I sometimes wonder if it’s his legacy that she’s winning all of these awards,″ Dr. Leela Sridhar said.


On the Net:

Rhodes Scholarship Trust: http://www.rhodesscholar.org

University of Miami: http://www.miami.edu

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