4 Mids named Rhodes scholars

Naval Academy tops U.S. schools in winners' total

November 21, 2005|By BRADLEY OLSON AND JUSTIN FENTON | BRADLEY OLSON AND JUSTIN FENTON,SUN REPORTERS

Three seniors and a recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy won Rhodes scholarships yesterday, the most in a single year in the service academy's history and more than any other university in the nation this year.

The 32 U.S. winners of the prestigious study grants to attend Oxford University in England included three from Maryland: one former enlisted Marine from Bethesda who dropped out of high school five years ago and ranks first in his class at the Naval Academy; and two Duke University students who graduated in the same class from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring.

"I keep pinching myself," said senior Midshipman Paul Angelo of Columbia Station, Ohio. "I'm just incredibly shocked, especially looking at all the other candidates. It must have been my lucky day."

Others selected from the Naval Academy are seniors Nicholas Schmitz of Bethesda and Jacquelyn Hanna of Lisbon, N.D., and Ensign William Kelly of New York, who graduated from the academy in May.

William L. Hwang and Rahul Satija, both of Potomac and both seniors at Duke University, were also chosen.

Naval Academy and Rhodes Trust officials said midshipmen are a good fit for the scholarships because of the well-rounded nature of the school's program. The guidelines for the scholarships - set up when the Rhodes Trust was created more than a century ago by British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes - call for academic excellence, leadership, integrity, physical vigor and commitment to public service. The grants provide for two or three years of study at Oxford, valued at $40,000 a year.

More than 900 students applied for the grants from 333 colleges and universities. After committees meeting in separate districts whittled the applicants down to 216 finalists, the candidates were interviewed Friday and Saturday, and the winners were announced yesterday.

"We are thrilled by this recognition of these outstanding individuals," said Vice Admiral Rodney P. Rempt, the Naval Academy's superintendent. "Our academic emphasis is fundamental to our mission at the academy to develop leaders of character for our Navy and Marine Corps."

Five years ago, Schmitz dropped out of high school to enlist in the Marine Corps. Within a year, he was promoted to corporal and in separate duty stations began attending community colleges. He was admitted to the Naval Academy after attending the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I., for one year.

Schmitz, 23, is rated top of his class at the Naval Academy. He is a varsity gymnast and regimental commander who has a double major in political science and economics, and is getting a minor in Japanese. He plans to study political theory at Oxford.

Schmitz said yesterday that although he has come a long way since he dropped out of high school, "I wouldn't recommend that route to anyone."

Nick Allard, the secretary of the Rhodes district committee that selected Schmitz and Hwang, said committee members were impressed by Schmitz's answers about whether torture is justified.

"He took a position that torture was never justified because it not only violated the U.S. Military Code and the Geneva Conventions, it goes against our own moral standards," said Allard, a former Rhodes scholar and partner in the Patton Boggs law firm in Washington.

The panel quizzed Schmitz about how he would feel if a terrorist had set a bomb to blow up in 30 minutes in a populous U.S. city, Allard said. Smiling, Schmitz held his ground. "He said, `You know, it's not just that it's legally and morally wrong, it's out of self-interest because as a military person, I don't want to be tortured either,'" Allard recalled.

Kelly, 23, a 2004 Truman scholar, graduated from the academy this year and is studying political science at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Kelly was selected as a naval aviator and will attend flight school in Pensacola, Fla., after completing his studies at Oxford.

"I'm overwhelmed," Kelly said yesterday. "And not so much for the individual accomplishment, but because [the academy] received the most scholarships. I don't feel like I'm at all special compared to my classmates."

Angelo, 21, who will graduate in May with a degree in political science, said he plans to pursue Latin American studies at Oxford. He has published two papers in academic journals: one on Central American guerrilla insurgencies in the 1970s and 1980s, and another on indigenous movements in Bolivia. In addition to running for intramural cross-country teams, Angelo volunteers as a Spanish interpreter at an Annapolis health clinic. He said he wants to be a foreign area officer for the Navy, serving most of his career in Latin America.

Hanna, 22, is an honors English major and Truman Scholar who will study cultural anthropology at Oxford. She is a half-marathon runner, assistant editor of an academy literary publication and an intramural cross-country runner.

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