Friday, April 25, 2014

Rhodes scholar aims to act on lofty goals

By Andy Gross
Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard staff photographer
Paolo Singer who lived across the street from Van Cortlandt Park on Broadway was named a Rhodes scholar Nov. 22.

Recently named Rhodes scholar Paolo Singer of Van Cortlandt Village is not only a brilliant student, but also an aspiring humanist with a vision of an economically more egalitarian world.

Mr. Singer, 22, spent his formative years living on Broadway across the street from Van Cortlandt Park. The Stuyvesant High School graduate,  currently a Harvard senior majoring in economics, was among 32 American students awarded a Rhodes Scholarship Nov. 22.

“I believe this opportunity comes with great responsibility to society,” said Mr. Singer. “My hope is what I learn and accomplish at Oxford will prepare me to become a better policymaker, economist and global citizen in the future.”

Cecil Rhodes established a trust for the Rhodes Scholarship as part of his will. The first scholarships were awarded in 1902 after his death. Mr. Rhodes, who earned his fortune in mining, was named the first chairman of De Beers in 1888. The firm once controlled 90 percent of the rough diamond trade.

The Rhodes scholarship provides 32 students from British territories and former British colonies, including the U.S., along with Germany an opportunity to study for up to three years at Mr. Rhodes’ alma mater, Oxford University. The scholarship was the first international study program and today is considered one of the most prestigious.

Mr. Singer said he is using the opportunity to study economics at Oxford to prepare to combat global poverty by using humane economic and policymaking strategies to address the rapidly growing disparity between the indigent and the wealthy throughout the world. “There is no natural rule that a few members of society should accumulate wealth at a breathtaking pace while others do not have the opportunity to afford basic necessities or attend schools,” he said.

Mr. Singer, one of 800 students who applied for a Rhodes scholarship, said the selection committee often looks for more than academic excellence.

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