After an 87-year drought of Rhodes Scholarships at Drake University, Drake made it rain when Lindsay Whorton (E4) won the prestigious award on Nov. 22.
Whorton, besides being an excellent academic scholar, played basketball at Drake University for the past four seasons and was named First Team All-Missouri Valley Conference and First Team Academic All-American.
“Drake is a unique institution in the way that athletics and academics go hand in hand,” Whorton said. “It was a huge part in prepping me for that and being in a place that has small classes, and I had a professor that pulled me aside who told me to go for it. President Maxwell helped me troubleshoot through the process, and it’s something that you would not experience at any other universities.”
Whorton is the second Drake Bulldog basketball player this year to be noted for his or her academic excellence, after Adam Emmenecker (B ’08) was praised during last year’s season for having a 3.97 GPA and triple majoring.
“For me, honestly, basketball and what I did accomplish didn’t come into conflict,” Whorton said. “If you are going to be successful in both you have to make sacrifices.”
According to Head Coach Amy Stephens, Whorton was anything but a liability.
“She was an academic All-American, and a first team All-Conference player,” Stephens said. “She has great leadership, and it was like having another coach on the floor. She is very intelligent, so it does not surprise me that she won the Rhodes Scholarship. She was always thinking three steps ahead.”
President Maxwell, who himself was a Fulbright Scholar, sits on the regional committee for the Rhodes Scholarship and has a lot of knowledge on the experience. He served as an adviser at Tufts University for students pursuing the Rhodes and other awards.
“As we got into the actual process, I was one of the people, along with a few others that gave her feedback on her essay,” Maxwell said. “When she was selected for interview, (there were) 45 applicants in the region and we interview 15. Once we knew she was selected, I asked a group of faculty to sit around a table with her and subjected her to a mock interview. The faculty was wonderful and the mock interview was as rigorous as the real thing. They did a good job in preparing her, and we gave her feedback.”
With a Drake student winning the award, it helps the university gain more recognition around the nation.
“For Drake, it’s a plus for us,” Maxwell said. “If you look at the company we keep, it’s wonderful to have national visibility. The other part is we do believe that we are a model of integration of intercollegiate sports. We believe we are one of the institutions that do the sports the right way, with the athletes in academically challenging courses.
“It used to be said that a ‘student athlete’ was said at an apologetic level,” Assistant Professor of English Craig Owens said. “Here at Drake we do not have to say it apologetically.”
Owens knows this firsthand because he helped Whorton start thinking about applying to become a Rhodes Scholar.
“Lindsay was in my class when she was a sophomore and she proved herself to be a careful and reflective student in the class and she was certainly a leader in class discussion,” Owens said. “I knew that she was on the basketball team and I might have known she was in line to be captain and the combination of athleticism and academic potential made me think of the Rhodes because you used to need to show physical vigor and academics. The emphasis on athletics has gone down lately, but she seemed to fit the classic Rhodes Scholar.”
As a Rhodes Scholar, Whorton will receive a two-year scholarship to study at Oxford University in Oxford, England.
“It is a little overwhelming because I don’t know what to expect, but that is part of the excitement,” Whorton said. “I am most privileged about this because of the opportunity to study at Oxford. This is going to open doors that I wouldn’t be able to open otherwise. I don’t know what I will do after Oxford, but I want to do something to help others.”
“It’s great for Lindsay because the Rhodes is a wonderful experience,” Maxwell said. “You get to go to Oxford for two years and play with your brains. Rhodes Scholar is a community and there are some from 13 countries and you are part of a community with people from around the world.”