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Student-athletes among 2014 Rhodes Scholars

Four NCAA student-athletes have been named Rhodes scholars for 2014. A fifth scholar, Alexander Diaz, managed Harvard’s men’s basketball team.

Student-athletes receiving the award include:

  • Clarke Knight — Smith College, chemistry, rowing and cross country
  • Brian McGrail — Williams College, political economy and history, cross country
  • Miles Unterreiner — Stanford University, bachelor’s and master’s in history, track and field and cross country 
  • Jessica Wamala — Villanova University, bachelor’s and master’s in political science, basketball

Approximately 80 winners are selected each year—32 from the United States. The American students will join an international group of scholars selected from 14 other jurisdictions around the world.

The Rhodes Scholarships provide awardees a fully funded opportunity to study at the University of Oxford in England for at least two years. The awards, among the most prestigious in academia, have a value of approximately $50,000 per year.

Clarke Knight is a rowing and cross country student-athlete at Smith College. A chemistry major, she was awarded a grant at the University of Tasmania to investigate two diseases that had a significant impact on the global potato crop, resulting in the discovery and marketing of a new chemical that neutralized the disease and increased global potato production by an estimated one billion.

She was awarded a fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the stability of biological samples from people exposed to mercury. Clarke also has authored a book on the history of women architects and biographies on early Smith chemistry graduates.

She plans to continue her education at Oxford where she will enter the master’s of philosophy program, studying geography and the environment.

Brian McGrail is a senior cross-country student-athlete at Williams College. A Truman Scholar member of Phi Beta Kappa, McGrail interned with Elizabeth Warren’s Senate campaign and is president of the Williams College Democrats.

He is doing research on the effect of tax rates on income inequality and volunteers to help low-income individuals prepare their taxes. While attending Oxford, McGrail plans to complete the master’s in comparative social policy.

Miles Unterreiner was a two-time All-American in track and field and cross country at Stanford and received the 2012 NCAA Winter Postgraduate Scholarship. Unterreiner received his bachelor’s and master’s in history and was given Stanford’s award for the graduating varsity athlete with the highest grade point average.

The recipient of the Robert Novak Collegiate Journalism Award, he was a writer, columnist and managing editor for opinions for The Stanford Daily. Unterreiner has an interest in international human rights and plans to do the master’s of philosophy program in international relations at Oxford.

Jessica Wamala graduated in May with a degree in political science from Villanova and is currently pursuing a master’s. She is the co-captain, forward of the women’s basketball team and is a Truman Scholar, a Rangel Scholar, and a Gates Millennium Scholar.

Wamala was a sophomore walk-on for the Wildcats and has interned at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade and at the State Department office of Near Eastern Affairs. She plans to pursue a master’s of philosophy in modern Middle Eastern studies at Oxford.

Rhodes Scholars are selected in a two-step process that includes nomination by their universities and a detailed finalist interview. In determining the award, the committee considers criteria set out in the will of Cecil Rhodes, including “high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership and physical vigor.”

Among previous NCAA student-athlete Rhodes recipients are Princeton graduate and former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, former Florida State football safety Myron Rolle, Southern California graduate and Athletics Director Pat Haden and former associate justice of the Supreme Court Byron White. White won football’s Heisman Trophy at Colorado and also was a recipient of the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award.