Enrolling 1,700 undergraduates, the University of the South is among the nation’s leading institutions in the overall production of Rhodes Scholars.

Since 1907, 27 of Sewanee’s graduates have earned the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. Sewanee is one of the very few small liberal arts colleges with more than 20 Rhodes Scholars—ranking ahead of such elite institutions as Amherst College (Massachusetts), Emory University (Georgia), Haverford College (Pennsylvania), and Middlebury College (Vermont).

Klarke Stricklen, of the class of 2022, is the most recent example of this Sewanee tradition.

What is the Rhodes Scholarship?

The awards are made to 32 U.S. scholars each year, and provide all expenses for two or three years of study at Oxford University in England.

Elliot F. Gerson, American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, 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." Applicants are chosen on the criteria of academic excellence, ambition for social impact, and uncommon ability to work with others to achieve one’s goals. “They should be committed to make a strong difference for good in the world, be concerned for the welfare of others, and be acutely conscious of inequities,” said Gerson.

Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a two-stage process. First, candidates must be endorsed by their college or university, and as a representative of one of the states or the District of Columbia. Committees of Selection in each of 16 districts then invite the strongest applicants to appear before them for interview.

The value of a Rhodes Scholarship averages approximately $75,000 per year, depending on the academic field and the degree (bachelor's, master’s, doctoral) chosen.

Sewanee and the Rhodes Scholar Tradition

Klarke Stricklen, Sewanee’s 27th Rhodes Scholar, is an American Studies major and African American Studies minor who also was named a Truman Scholar in spring 2021. She plans to pursue an M.Sc. in Economic and Social History at Oxford. At Sewanee, Stricklen has been a student research assistant for the Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation, and a member of the Roberson Project working group, the campus chapter of NAACP, and Bairnwick Women’s Center. She is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa and history honor society Phi Alpha Theta, and received the Davis Family Scholarship for leadership and community service and the Isabel Caldwell Marks Memorial Scholarship. She previously interned in the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

Stricklen is the fourth Rhodes Scholar from Sewanee since 2000. Carrie Ryan, C’12, majored in cultural anthropology, was the president of the student body, and co-founded the campus diversity coalition. Katharine Wilkinson, a 2005 graduate, was named a 2006 Rhodes Scholar. Wilkinson, a religion major from Atlanta, graduated from Sewanee summa cum laude and was valedictorian of her class. Robin Rotman, C'04, of Chicago, who majored in geology with minors in environmental studies and mathematics, was also awarded the prestigious scholarship.

"They say they're investing in people rather than a program," Wilkinson said. "They're looking for candidates who will have an impact throughout the world."

At the time of her selection, Stricklen was the fourth Sewanee Rhodes Scholar residing in Sewanee, joining Professor of History emeritus Brown Patterson, Professor of English Jennifer Michael, and former University Chaplain Tom Ward. Seven of Sewanee’s 26 previous Rhodes Scholars have returned to teach at the University. That presence has helped sustain the school’s Rhodes Scholar success.

“I think it (having former Rhodes Scholars on campus) does make a difference. Success breeds success,” says Michael, who graduated in 1989 and attended the University of Oxford from 1989-91. “I was previously on the other side of the Rhodes selection process on the state committee. One thing we noticed was that every year, it was harder for students from non-Rhodes colleges to get advice and get a sense of what they needed to do to prepare for that competition. So, in practical terms, it’s good to have people around here who know how to prepare.

“But the fact that we’re Sewanee graduates also helps. This is a place where a number of alumni come back to teach and work in different capacities. If we’re careful about that, it’s a valuable thing because we have an institutional memory and awareness of history. Students value that.”

"This scholarship is as much a testament to Sewanee as it is to me," Ryan said. "My love of learning and commitment to social justice have been fueled by great mentors here." Stricklen agrees: "As the first African American to achieve this honor at the University of the South, I am thankful to every Black student, faculty, and staff member who came before me and paved the way for my success. Thank you to the University of the South and especially Vice-Chancellor Reuben Brigety for supporting my candidacy, continuously investing in my success, and pushing me to be a better leader."

“Sewanee’s strongest asset is how involved faculty get in the academic lives of the students, both on and off campus,” says Joel Cunningham, former vice-chancellor at Sewanee. “They [the faculty] are demanding, supportive, and yet intense mentors. It’s that special nurturing that I believe produces the kind of graduates who are attractive to the Rhodes Scholarship organization.”

Find out more about Rhodes Scholarships here.

The following alumni are Sewanee’s Rhodes Scholars:

Henry Markley Gass 1907
Frank Hoyt Gailor ’13
Carleton Goldstone Bowden ’14
George Malcolm Fooshee ’22
Edgar Elliott Beaty  ’26
Clayton Lee Burwell ’32
George Baucum Fulkerson ’39
Thaddeus Goode Holt, Jr. ’52
William Brown Patterson ’53
William Webb White ’54
John Vincent Fleming ’58
Benjamin Bernard Dunlap, Jr. ’59
Joseph Daryl Canfill  ’59
Joseph Levering Price ’63
Douglas Duane Paschall ’66
James Robert Sheller ’67
Thomas Reid Ward  ’67
Jefferson Allen McMahan ’76
David Michael Lodge ’79
Ramona Loret Doyle  ’81
Edward Wrenn Wooten ’86
Jennifer Paine Davis ’89
Anne Katherine Jones ’98
Robin Rotman '04
Katharine Wilkinson ’06
Carrie Ryan ’12
Klarke Stricklen '22