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For the first time since 1930, no Harvard students have been named American scholars in the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship program.
This year's 32 American Rhodes scholars, announced Saturday, were chosen from 28 different universities--the broadest range of educational institutions in the 98-year history of the competition. For the first time, scholars were named from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Wheaton College and Yeshiva University.
"I think it was inevitable that one year Harvard would not have a Rhodes scholar. I wouldn't read any great significance into this," said Elliot F. Gerson '74, American Secretary of the Rhodes Scholarship Trust.
Yale University, which has three winners, has the most scholars in the country for the second year in a row.
Tegan S. Shohet '01, of Mather House and Toronto, Ontario was named a Canadian Rhodes scholar in a separate process last week.
Although no Harvard students won the American Rhodes award, four were named finalists out of 95 total finalists for the competition.
Harvard endorsed 40 students for the award this year, a more than 10 percent increase over 1999. According to Paul A. Bolhmann, director of fellowships at the Office of Career Services, this increase was prompted by a visit from Gerson and the warden of Rhodes House in Oxford, "encouraging Harvard to be more liberal in its endorsements."
Harvard officials had cut back on the number of endorsements in recent years, which they felt had become excessive. Gerson said he visited Harvard because he wanted to dispel this misconception.
"We want Harvard to enter as many qualified students as there are," he said.
Gerson said students are selected for this prestigious honor because of their academic and extracurricular excellence and not because of the college they attend.
"We choose individuals, not colleges," he said. "Essential prerequisites include high academic excellence and other qualities such as leadership, vigor and concern for others."
Gerson said Harvard should not be phased by this news.
"Harvard should be extremely proud of its record. No other institution has had as many winners, both overall or in one particular year," he said.
Harvard has had as many as 10 Rhodes Scholars in one year.
The University boasted more Rhodes Scholars than any other school for six straight years in the last decade until Yale and West Point broke its record in 1999. Each school netted three scholars to Harvard's two.
Harvard's total number of Rhodes Scholars, 295 since the American Rhodes program was instituted in 1904, still exceeds all other universities. Yale is second, with 200 total scholars and Princeton follows with 182 winners
In an e-mail message, Dean of College Harry R. Lewis '68 wrote that the final competition results do not reflect poorly on the students or on the college itself.
"I am disappointed of course, not for Harvard but for the many outstanding individual students Harvard endorsed," Lewis said. "I don't have any reason to think this is anything but a random fluctuation, but we will certainly try to learn what we can about the competition this year."
Seth D. Familian '01, one of the Harvard finalists, said he was frustrated by the final selection process.
"There was shared frustration among the candidates who weren't chosen because we felt we weren't being asked questions that really showed our personalities," Familian said. "They asked narrow questions outside the scope of our projects. I was particularly frustrated because the committee didn't seem as interested in the unconventional mode that I was studying."
Familian said he was told by Rhodes officials during one of their cocktail events that he was the first candidate studying visual arts who was being seriously considered for the scholarship.
He said he did not get the impression that the selection process had any biases against specific colleges or universities.
"I didn't feel it was about colleges, but about the people," he said. "I felt comfortable at the state round, and in the final round, there was the same focus on people and who they were."
Familian said he was surprised that he was the only Harvard student to reach the finals in the Northeast District. There were three finalists in the district from Yale.
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