Former President Bill Clinton used his Rhodes scholarship in 1968.
Former President Bill Clinton used his Rhodes scholarship in 1968.
Photo courtesy Clinton Presidential Library

When British businessman Cecil Rhodes died in 1902, his fortune was used to establish the Rhodes scholarship, which brings outstanding students from around the world to study at the University of Oxford in England, generally for two years. Students from any academic discipline are selected on the basis of intellectual distinction, as well as the promise of future leadership and service to the world. Around 90 scholarships are given annually, and some of the most famous scholars are listed below.

Edwin Hubble

Famous astronomer Edwin Hubble received his scholarship in 1910. Having studied science and mathematics at the University of Chicago, he used his time at Oxford to study law. Hubble then returned to the States to continue his work in astronomy, most notably discovering the existence of galaxies beyond the Milky Way.

Dean Rusk

Dean Rusk, who used his 1931 Rhodes scholarship to study history and political science, served as U.S. Secretary of State from 1961 to 1969 under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Lord Howard Florey

Australian pharmacologist Lord Howard Florey was awarded his scholarship in 1921 and studied medicine at Oxford. In 1945, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine along with Alexander Fleming and Ernst Chain for their work in discovering penicillin.

James William Fulbright

James William Fulbright, who used his 1926 Rhodes scholarship to study law, was elected to the House of Representatives in 1943, then served in the Senate from 1945 to 1974. Soon after, he established the Fulbright Program to provide grants for students and professionals to study, teach, and conduct research abroad. To date, more than 250,000 individuals have received Fulbright grants.

Bill Bradley

William Warren Bradley already had an Olympic gold medal for basketball when he began his study of politics, philosophy, and economics at Oxford in 1965. He went on to have a Hall of Fame career in basketball before entering the Senate in 1978 and running as a presidential candidate in the 2000 primary.

Our list of famous Rhodes scholars continues on the next page with a well-known musician and director.

Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton received his Rhodes scholarship in 1968. While at Oxford, he studied law and also played an active part in student life, particularly in protests against the Vietnam War. Fellow Rhodes scholar David E. Kendall later became Clinton's personal lawyer.

Strobe Talbott

Strobe Talbott, who also won his scholarship in 1968 and spent his time at Oxford translating Nikita Khrushchev's memoirs into English, was another of Clinton's Oxford friends. He went on to be Deputy Secretary of State from 1994 to 2001. Talbott was also president of the Brookings Institution -- a Washington, D.C.-based political research facility that helped negotiate an end to the war in Yugoslavia in 1999.

George Stephanopoulos

George Stephanopoulos used his 1984 Rhodes scholarship to earn a master's degree in theology. During the 1992 presidential campaign, Stephanopoulos served as Bill Clinton's senior political adviser, then as communications director during Clinton's presidency. He currently hosts the Sunday morning news show This Week and is the chief Washington correspondent for ABC news.

Kris Kristofferson

Well-known musician and actor Kris Kristofferson received his Rhodes scholarship in 1958. He studied English literature, and it was while he was at Oxford that he began his performing career. Since then, his hit records have won him several Grammys.

Terrence Malik

Best known as director of The Thin Red Line and Badlands, Terrence Malik won a Rhodes scholarship in 1966. He studied philosophy but had a disagreement with his adviser over his thesis (the concept of the world in the writings of Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein) and left Oxford without finishing his doctorate.

Naomi Wolf

American author and feminist social critic Naomi Wolf used her time at Oxford from 1985 to 1987 to begin the research that eventually became the international best seller The Beauty Myth, which condemns the exploitation of women by the fashion and beauty industries.

Cory A. Booker

Cory A. Booker began his studies at Oxford in 1992, gaining an honors degree in modern history. He is now a Democratic politician and mayor of racially diverse Newark, New Jersey, the largest city in the state.

Randal Pinkett

Randal Pinkett, who earned a masters degree in computer science as a 1994 Rhodes scholar, gained celebrity status when he was hired by Donald Trump after winning season four of The Apprentice.


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