Kansas University senior Ruth Anne French has become the 25th student in school history to win a Rhodes Scholarship.
French this weekend was in St. Paul, Minn., with 12 other Rhodes finalists from the Midwest for final interviews. They were gathered on the campus of Macalester College at 5 p.m. when the scholarship committee announced the four winners from the region, including French.
"My family and I were very excited that I had made it to the district interview, and they thought it was great that I was a state nominee," she said. "We were all just very shocked by the news. It is just something that you don't even want to try to imagine or hope for."
Thirty-two Rhodes scholarships are given each year. The winners receive more than $50,000 over two years to finance graduate studies at Oxford University in Great Britain.
French said she was most excited about being able to work closely with Oxford's professors.
"Being challenged by world-class faculty who will be able to guide me and my research interests, that is very exciting to me," she said.
French, a political science major, said she would pursue research in environmental policy regulation. She will leave for Oxford in October 2005.
Sue Lorenz, assistant director of the KU Honors program, guides KU students through national scholarship applications, and worked with French on the Rhodes process.
"She has a very sharp intellect and is well informed," Lorenz said. "But besides her talent, she also puts in a tremendous amount of work and effort."
Lorenz said that having Rhodes scholars come from KU showed the school's commitment to quality education.
"I think it is a testament to the KU faculty and the institution overall. A student with strong abilities can get a very fine education here," Lorenz said.
KU students have won more Rhodes Scholarships than all other Kansas colleges and universities combined, according to KU's university relations office.
The Rhodes Scholarships were initiated after the death of Cecil Rhodes, a British financier and statesman, in 1902. The first American Scholars were elected in 1904.
French, a native of Partridge, graduated from Haven High School before coming to KU. Her parents, Jim and Lisa French, run a fifth-generation farm south of Hutchinson.
French said she had celebrated with some of the other Rhodes finalists.
"We went out to a nice restaurant and bought a bottle of champagne on the way back," she said. "A nice meal and a little champagne -- that's it so far."