THE SUMMER before her junior year at Yale, Catherine Sharkey spent a half day visiting Oxford University in England.
"I was pretty much in awe," Sharkey said. "It was like looking at the real Yale."
Now, Sharkey, of Homeland, will have more than a half day to visit Oxford. She will have two years to learn the ins and outs of the prestigious university as one of two Rhodes scholars from Maryland.
Eric Gregory, of Wheaton, is the other.
Sharkey and Gregory, 1988 graduates of Roland Park Country School and Montgomery County's Wheaton High School, respectively, both were very active in high school, ranging from student government to sports. Sharkey served as president of the student government association and as sports editor of the school's newspaper. In addition, she was a varsity lacrosse, field hockey, and soccer player.
Sharkey carried those activities with her to Yale, where she is involved in the student government of the university's Residential College System. In addition to playing a variety of intramural sports, Sharkey was named second team All-American and All-Ivy for lacrosse. She also played on the U.S. National Lacrosse Squad last year.
With all that to her credit, younger brother James Sharkey said it wasn't a complete surprise that his sister was named a Rhodes scholar.
"We were surprised in the sense that this is a big honor," said James, who is a freshman at Georgetown University. "But Cathy has always done well it whatever she's decided to do."
Gregory, a Harvard senior, is president of the Christian Impact group, a member of Sigma Chi and the Crimson Key Society. He also is involved in a variety of sports including football and crew.
Scholars are selected on the basis of proven academic excellence, integrity, respect for others, leadership ability and athletic abilities. Winners have their college fees paid and receive a stipend to cover living expenses.
Sharkey, 21, admits she applied for the scholarship thinking she "had a shot" but was not totally convinced she'd be a recipient.
"Actually, my father encouraged me to apply," she said. "When I applied, I did so thinking [the scholarship] would be something I could handle. It would be something I would love.
"I have to admit I was a little intimidated by the entire process. I had heard so many myths, especially about the interview sessions," she added.
But Sharkey said the caliber of recommendations submitted by her professors and advisers made the interview process enjoyable.
"I'm pretty indebted to a lot of people," she said. "It was obvious during the interviews that my professors had written quite a bit about my work, mentioning specific works."
Gregory said he didn't expect that he would even have a chance of winning. "I really . . . just sort of threw my name in the pot," Gregory said. "I was completely shocked when they announced my name. I was shocked even to get an interview. I think the thing that really helped me was that I didn't think I had a chance, so I was really relaxed during the interview. I think that
worked to my advantage."
Diane Gregory said Eric, the youngest of her three children, has always been the modest type. But when he called last Saturday to inform his parents of his latest achievement, he may have taken modesty a little too far.
"It was 6:30 Saturday evening," Gregory said. "He said, 'Mom, your son's a Rhodes scholar.' He was kind of flat. Of course I said 'Ahhhhhhh!'
"I think it's going to take him a little while before it all hits home," she added.
Gregory said she thought her son's chances of being named a Rhodes scholar was a long shot at best. She had confidence in him, she said, but she knew the competition would be tough.
"From a mother's point of view, he's a great son," Gregory said. "He's the baby. A 20-year-old, 6-foot-5, baby. But he's always been very outgoing. This is just a great opportunity for him."