Student is first from Loyola to be chosen Rhodes scholar

December 07, 1998|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF

A 20-year-old Dominican immigrant and Loyola College student who developed an interest in science while teaching himself English was named a Rhodes scholar during the weekend.

Jose Vargas of Gaithersburg is one of 32 American students who received the prestigious award. Vargas plans to study biochemistry for two years at Oxford University in England after he graduates in May. He is Loyola's first Rhodes scholar.

"Getting [named a Rhodes scholar] is the kind of thing you're so excited about because you're so focused on trying to do your best," Vargas said yesterday. "You're competing against such an amazing group of people. It's very draining."

The Rhodes scholarships, the oldest of the international study awards available to American students, were created in 1902 in the will of Cecil Rhodes, a British philanthropist.

With the selections announced late Saturday, 2,854 U.S. students have won Rhodes scholarships since the first selection in 1903. The 32 recipients were chosen from 909 applicants endorsed by 310 colleges and universities.

Ninety-six applicants from 67 colleges and universities reached the final stage of the competition, said Elliott Gerson, American secretary of the Rhodes Scholarship Trust.

Vargas said he went through more than a dozen hours of interviews with Rhodes officials last week at the Riggs Bank in Washington. After he learned he was selected, he celebrated by sleeping.

Vargas and his family left the Dominican Republic for the United States when he was 13. The graduate of Magruder High School && in Montgomery County said he became interested in biochemistry during a 1995 summer internship at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.

"I've always had a passion to be a doctor and since I came to the U.S., I saw a need for bilingual doctors," he said. "To go to the lab every day and have the opportunity to add to scientific knowledge is exciting."

Pub Date: 12/07/98

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