Campus News

Willy Oppenheim '09 Named Rhodes Scholar

Story posted November 23, 2009

William J. Oppenheim III '09, widely known as Willy, is among 32 American men and women chosen as Rhodes Scholars representing the U.S.

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Willy Oppenheim '09

Announced Saturday, November 21, 2009, the winners were selected from 805 applicants at 326 schools, and join an international group of scholars.

Their expenses will be fully covered for up to three years of study at the University of Oxford in England. The scholarships, worth about $50,000 per year, are awarded for attributes that include high academic achievement, personal integrity, leadership potential and physical vigor.

In an interview with WVIT, the NBC affiliate serving New Canaan, Conn., Oppenheim's hometown, he said he was humbled, honored and excited but not overwhelmed with shock. "It didnít feel like winning the lottery," he says in the online article. "It felt more like when you work hard for something and you get it." Read the article.

An exemplar among students committed to serving the common good, Oppenheim, founded The Omprakash Foundation, which helps link volunteer teachers with more than 100 grassroots educational projects in 26 countries around the globe.

Oppenheim and the Common Good

Check out the McKeen Center for the Common Good Web site, offering continuously updated content regarding community service opportunities, a schedule of events and other happenings.

Having taken a year off after high school, he spent three months in a monastery in India and six months in Colorado living in a tent.

As a first-year student, Oppenheim got involved with Tedford Housing, a non-profit in Brunswick, Maine, that helps provide shelter,
housing and services for the homeless.

He also founded the Global Citizens Grant, which provides students with the opportunity to pursue summer volunteer and public service projects outside the U.S., with the intent of supporting student projects that are independently designed and focus on providing direct service by working in local communities.

Oppenheim was active in the education department and spent a semester student-teaching at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham while earning his Maine Teacher Certification.

He was awarded the following honors: Academy of American Poets Prize; Non-fiction prize honorable mention; Forbes Rickard Jr. Memorial Poetry Prize; General R. H. Dunlap Prize, awarded to the student who writes the best essay on the subject of ďservice,Ē in addition to demonstrating personal evidence of service; and the Presidentís Award, which recognizes a studentís exceptional personal achievements and uncommon contributions to the College.

Oppenheim has done research on the intersections of religion, education and politics in India, Brazil and South Africa, and since leaving the College has taught and led National Outdoor Leadership (NOLS) backcountry expeditions.

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"The Rhodes Scholarship application process is extremely challenging and seeks to identify the very best of the best in terms of not only qualities of mind, but also qualities of person," says Student Fellowships and Research Director Cindy Stocks.

"Willy is just such an individual: a deeply inquisitive thinker, a passionate educator, a visionary founder of a non-profit organization, a loyal friend, a prize-winning poet, and an avid hiker and skier, who brings a deep sense of humility and gratitude to all that he does."

Oppenheim plans to pursue the master of science in comparative and international education at Oxford.

Oppenheim graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, with a self-designed major in anthropology, religion and education.

About Rhodes Scholarships

Elliot F. Gerson, American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, called the Rhodes Scholarships, "the oldest and best known award for international study, and arguably the most famous academic award available to American college graduates."

They were created in 1902 by the will of British philanthropist and African colonial pioneer Cecil Rhodes. The first class of American Rhodes Scholars entered Oxford in 1904; those elected Nov. 21 will enter Oxford in October 2010. Oppenheim is Bowdoin's 22nd Rhodes Scholar since 1904.

Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a two-stage process. Candidates first must be endorsed by their college or university. More than 1,500 students each year seek their institution's endorsement. Selection committees in each of 16 U.S. districts then invite the strongest applicants to appear before them for interviews.

In addition to the 32 Americans, Rhodes Scholars are also selected from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, the nations of the Commonwealth Caribbean, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Southern Africa (South Africa, plus Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and Swaziland), Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Approximately 80 Scholars are selected worldwide each year, including several non-U.S. Scholars who have attended American colleges and universities.

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