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Annie Whiteley

Annie Whiteley

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Clayton Aldern

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Two more Minnesotans win Rhodes Scholarships

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS
  • Star Tribune
  • November 18, 2012 - 9:19 PM

For the sixth time since 2000, Minnesota has scored multiple winners in the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship competition.

Annie Whiteley of Wayzata, a senior at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and Clay Aldern, of Cedar, a senior at Brown University, were named Upper Midwest winners after interviews with a seven-member Rhodes selection committee Saturday in Chicago.

The pair, both 21, joined 30 other U.S. winners announced Sunday who will begin studies at Oxford University in England next year.

Both reacted with surprise.

"A little bit of disbelief," said Aldern, 21, a neuroscience major who graduated from St. Francis High School. "They said my name. I am still waiting for it to sink in."

Whiteley said her face turned so pale that people "were afraid I would pass out. I was in shock, and I still am." She is a biology major who graduated from Orono High School.

Multiple winners from Minnesota or Minnesota colleges are not unusual. According to Star Tribune archives:

•Two women who attended Roseville Area High School won the award in 2011.

•St. Olaf College in Northfield had two Rhodes Scholars in 2008.

•Two students with Minnesota ties won the scholarships in 2001 and 2004.

•In 2003, three Minnesota natives were Rhodes Scholars. The state also had triple winners in 1998.

After hearing the news Saturday, Whiteley called her mom at a nearby Chicago hotel. "We were thrilled," Claudia Whiteley said.

Aldern also made a quick call to his mother, who was teaching a painting workshop at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. Bonnie Cutts said she had informed her students Saturday about her son's Rhodes interview. She picked up his second call and told her class he was headed to Oxford. "They all cheered," she said.

The two Minnesotans are among 32 Rhodes scholars chosen from 16 districts in the United States for a four-year, all-expenses-paid scholarship. Neither has visited England, they said, though both have studied abroad.

Whiteley will pursue a master's degree in medical anthropology at Oxford and later hopes to become a physician working to improve Third World health care. She spent two months in 2011 in Tanzania studying Maasai indigenous medicine and the distillation of plant oils to make soap that might be sold to help the African community.

Aldern, who has done public health research in Samoa, will seek a master's in neuroscience at Oxford and then a doctorate. "I am really excited about ... the ability to model complex brain activity. I am interested in how the brain interfaces with the computer."

Aldern said he asked a Rhodes official why he and Whiteley won. "He said at this stage we were looking for a sense of self and person, and a real authenticity -- are you genuinely passionate about the things you said you were?'' Aldern recalled.

Jim Adams • 952-746-3283

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