Delaware's Matthew Watters named Rhodes Scholar
Matthew T. Watters
Matthew T. Watters during a trip to Haiti.
Rhodes Scholar Matthew T. Watters, sitting on an old tank with children, and, below, teaching an emergency medicine class.

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9:21 a.m., Nov. 22, 2010----Matthew T. Watters, of Ramsey, N.J., a senior neuroscience major and political science minor at the University of Delaware, has been named a 2010 Rhodes Scholar.

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Watters is one of 32 American men and women selected as Rhodes Scholars representing the United States, according to Elliot F. Gerson, American secretary of the Rhodes Trust, who made the announcement on Sunday.

Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England, and may allow funding in some instances for four years.

Gerson 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."

Watters, who has worked in Sudan and Haiti, was a finalist for two major scholarships this fall -- the Rhodes and also the Marshall.

He is the University of Delaware's 12th Rhodes Scholar.

“The Rhodes Scholarship is the standard-bearer for academic excellence, and we couldn't be prouder or more excited that it's gone to one of our own. Matthew Watters is a great example of the talent that's defining UD -- talent that will attract more of the same,” UD President Patrick Harker said.

Harker added, “The Rhodes Scholarship, which recognizes recipients' dedication to service alongside academic accomplishment, is an appropriate honor for Matt, whose work in Sudan and Haiti is a testament to his commitment to helping others -- and, I think, a good prediction of how his future studies will profoundly benefit humanity. As one of 32 students nationwide awarded this honor, Matt finds himself in exceptionally good company. I know we're all excited to see what he does next.”

Watters said he was surprised to learn he had been selected. “I found out Saturday night after the interview,” he said. “All 12 candidates were brought into the room where the judges had deliberated, then they announced the winners. I was shocked. I actually thought I had misheard them.

“As the truth sank in, I felt filled with gratitude -- gratitude for all those who helped me get there. This amazing dream is only reality because of them.”

Watters cited the assistance and support of his parents and uncles; girlfriend Audrey Sullivan, also a UD senior; Katharine C. Kerrane, senior associate director of the University Honors Program; and Raymond Peters and Devon Miller-Duggan, supplemental faculty with the Honors Program.

Watters has conducted research in the neuroscience laboratory of Jeffrey B. Rosen, professor in UD's Department of Psychology, and he recognized Rosen, as well as John Koh, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, Barret Michalec, assistant professor of sociology, and Krystyna Musik, instructor of foreign languages and literatures, for their assistance in his academic career.

Watters said the University of Delaware provides “so many opportunities to grow, academically and personally,” adding, “It is the perfect mix of big university options and opportunities with a small college feel and community.”

Watters will begin his studies at Oxford in October, 2011, and plans to work toward a master of science degree in global health science. Following Oxford, he plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in health policy.

Watters has worked in two hospitals in south Sudan, training staff in the prevention of infection, and in two hospitals in Haiti.

He was a 2010 Plastino Scholar at UD, an honor through which he traveled to Sudan to work with Merlin, an organization specializing in rebuilding health services in an area while providing health care during times of crisis. His work was to evaluate systems of infection prevention at two hospitals and provide training for staff. A UD Institute for Global Studies grant supported an extended stay in the African nation.

As a 2010 St. Boniface Champion, Watters volunteered emergency medical technician (EMT) services in Haiti. Upon his return, he founded Students for Haiti, which following the earthquake has raised $50,000 to help rebuild a hospital destroyed in the town of Villa.

He noted that his personal motto and that of Students for Haiti is “kembe fem,” which is creole for “stand strong.”

He is an avid mountain biker and finished ninth at the 2008 nationals in the age 19-23 group.

About Matthew Watters

“Matt has a great sense of humor and was fun to work with. Although he is very down to earth and unpretentious, when it comes to helping others, he has a focused intensity and confidence that he can accomplish what he sets out to do,” said Kerrane, who works with Rhodes candidates. “His can-do attitude is evident from his work in raising money to rebuild Haiti's Villa hospital, badly damaged by the 2010 earthquake. So far, Students for Haiti, the student organization Matt founded, has raised $50,000 of the $70,000 needed to rebuild Villa Hospital.”

Kerrane added that Watters “has a fearless quality when it comes to tackling problems.”

She noted that he chose to go to southern Sudan to help rebuild hospitals shattered by Sudan's long civil war. “In just a short time in southern Sudan, Matt worked with tribal leaders to set up a community health committee that has effectively disciplined irresponsible hospital employees -- many of whom are former soldiers with weapons at their disposal,” she said. “He trained staff how to reduce mortality and helped create infection control committees. Matt's work greatly improved the level of care in those hospitals.”

Kerrane said that in reading letters from the doctors in southern Sudan to Watters, she “was struck with their affection for him and their gratitude for the work he did in their country.

“Matt is extremely impressive and I know he'll do great work in the world and make us all proud,” she said.

UD Rhodes Scholars

Following is a list of UD Rhodes Scholars, with Rhodes year and Delaware class year:

Matthew T. Watters, 2011
David A. Kovara, 2002, AS 2002, 2002M
Thomas M. Pellathy, 2001, AS 2000, 2000M
Douglas de Lorenzo, 1998, AS 1998
Leonard P. Stark, 1991, AS 1991, 1991M
Anthony P. Sholl, 1961, AS 1961
William H. Maguigan, 1935, AS 1935
Cornelius Tilghman, Sr., 1926, AS 1925
G. Gray Carter, 1923, EG 1922
F. Bayard Carter, 1918, AS 1920
Everett F. Warrington, 1907, AS 1907
Charles Bush, 1904, AS 1903

About the Rhodes

The Rhodes Scholarships were created in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, British philanthropist and African colonial pioneer. The first class of American Rhodes Scholars entered Oxford in 1904; those elected this week will enter Oxford in October 2011.

Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a two-stage process. First, candidates must be endorsed by their college or university. More than 1,500 students each year seek their institution's endorsement; this year, 837 were endorsed by 309 different colleges and universities.

Committees of Selection in each of 16 U.S. districts then invite the strongest applicants to appear before them for interview. Gerson said "applicants are chosen on the basis of the criteria set down in the will of Cecil Rhodes.

These criteria are high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership and physical vigor.

These basic characteristics are directed at fulfilling Mr. Rhodes' hopes that the Rhodes Scholars would make an effective and positive contribution throughout the world. In Rhodes' words, his scholars should “esteem the performance of public duties as their highest aim.”

Applicants in the United States may apply either through the state where they are legally resident or where they have attended college for at least two years. The district committees met separately, on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 19 and 20, in cities across the country.

Each district committee made a final selection of two Rhodes Scholars from the candidates of the state or states within the district. In all 209 applicants from 88 different colleges and universities reached the final stage of the competition, including eight that had never before had a student win a Rhodes Scholarship.

The 32 Rhodes Scholars chosen from the United States will join an international group of scholars chosen from 14 other jurisdictions around the world. In addition to the 32 Americans, 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.

With the elections announced this week, 3,228 Americans have won Rhodes Scholarships, representing 312 colleges and universities.

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