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Archive for Friday, December 5, 1997

PAST KU RHODES SCHOLAR SWITCHES HATS

December 5, 1997

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Pam McElwee is content.

Why, you ask?

Come Saturday, she won't be peppered with questions from Rhodes Scholarship district panelists.

This time, McElwee will be asking the questions.

"I thought, 'I'm glad I don't have to go through this again,'" McElwee said Thursday from her parents' home in Lawrence. "It's hard for everybody."

Five years ago as a Kansas University senior, McElwee was selected as a Rhodes Scholar. She had her first taste of judging last year as a member of the Kansas panel.

This year, McElwee was asked to serve on the Iowa panel. And this weekend in Minneapolis, Minn., McElwee and eight other district panelists will be evaluating 16 candidates from the region, among them KU senior Lee Havis and a student from Kansas State University.

Four will emerge from the region as Rhodes Scholars, a rank that harbors names as lofty as Bill Clinton.

"Once you reach the state level, or the district level, everybody is so good, everybody has done such amazing things," said McElwee, a 1988 Lawrence High graduate. "You can't even feel bad if you don't win.

"It's just such an honor to make it that far," she added. "I know that almost sounds cliched, but it's true."

Of course she did win, a fact she attributes mostly to having a "good day" at the interview.

McElwee received her master's degree in forestry at Oxford University, where the American scholars studied and hung out together when they could.

"It's a pretty tight-knit community," she said.

No kidding. Two Rhodes Scholars in her group got married, and two others still are dating.

Currently, McElwee is working toward a doctorate in forestry from Yale University. She spent several months this year in Vietnam, near Hanoi, working on her dissertation, before returning in August to Yale.

About 5:45 a.m. today, McElwee was scheduled to leave for Minnesota, where she will begin studying the candidates' dossiers. Understandably, when the interviews roll around, McElwee will be sympathetic but not envious.

"You're not the one trembling with fright," she said.

-- Matt Gowen's phone message number is 832-7222. His e-mail address is gowen@ljworld.com.

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