Yale graduate from Baltimore is chosen as Rhodes Scholar Civin, an elected official in Conn., is 1 of 32 picked

December 09, 1996|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,SUN STAFF

Joshua Civin is a New Haven, Conn., alderman. And a volunteer in an AmeriCorps project who works with middle-school students from poor urban neighborhoods. And a summa cum laude graduate of Yale University.

And, as of Saturday, the Baltimore-bred Civin is a Rhodes Scholar.

"I think he was actually screaming when he called to tell us," his mother, Nancy Civin, said last night of his call home with the good news. "He was very, very excited."

Civin, 22, a graduate of Gilman School, was one of 32 Americans selected over the weekend for the prestigious two-year scholarships to Oxford University in England. Previous recipients include President Clinton, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and six members of the U.S. Senate.

"It's really a matter of luck," Civin said from New Haven last night. He said he was pleasantly surprised Saturday in Boston when a selection panel that had interviewed 10 regional finalists informed him that he was one of the four winners. The final cut, he said, was based on 20-minute individual interviews -- and a two-hour cocktail party.

His studies as a history major at Yale and his work as a volunteer and an elected city official have focused his interest on urban problems, Civin said. He plans to pursue a master's degree at Oxford in economic and social history.

"It's going to give me a chance to go to England and to continue to look at urban issues," he said. "I think it's important that as Americans we don't have blinders on about solutions other countries have found to urban problems."

Civin was elected in January to a second term as the alderman representing New Haven's Ward 1, where the majority of his constituents are Yale students.

At Yale, Civin was the first student in a decade to win two top university honors: the Snow Prize, for public service and leadership, and the Warren Prize, for the top scholar in the humanities. He also was awarded a Truman Scholarship, which he can use after Oxford for further graduate study.

Civin's father, Curt Civin, is chief of pediatric oncology at Johns Hopkins Hospital. His mother organizes Holocaust programs for the Baltimore Jewish Council. His brother, Marcus, is a sophomore at Brown University.

This year's U.S. Rhodes Scholars are 17 men and 15 women, said David Alexander, American secretary of the Rhodes Scholarship Trust. Of the women, nine intend to pursue a career in science or medicine, "an unprecedented development," he said.

The scholars are judged on four criteria -- academic record, leadership, public service and "physical vigor." Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902), the British diamond magnate whose will set up the trust, directed "in his rather special language that he did not want 'mere bookworms,' " Alexander said. Rhodes might be pleased that among the winners this year are an Olympic gold medalist in women's swimming and a man who fought the Russians in his native Afghanistan before becoming a U.S. citizen.

The scholarships are worth about $20,000 each, covering travel to England, all Oxford fees and a living stipend, Alexander said.

Pub Date: 12/09/96

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