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Since 2005, The Florida State University has produced three U.S. Rhodes Scholars. No other state university in the nation can make that claim.

Cecil Rhodes, a British philanthropist and colonial pioneer, created the Rhodes Scholarship in 1902.

FSU Rhodes Scholars:

Garrett Johnson (2006)
Joe O'Shea (2008)
Myron Rolle (2009)

The groundwork began in late 2004, when Florida State established its first Office of National Fellowships. Finally, students had a one-stop shop — equal parts recruiter, teacher, coach, navigator and advocate — that would help them to compete with Ivy League students for prestigious fellowships, and win.

And win they did. In the past four years, the Rhodes triple play by U.S. students at Florida State has been bested by only nine schools — a rarefied group composed of Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Duke, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and the University of Chicago. During the same period, a mere six schools have managed to match the Rhodes record of Florida State. That stellar cadre includes Columbia, Brown and Georgetown universities.

Among the many renowned institutions who have garnered "only" one or two Rhodes Scholarships since 2005, while Florida State was nabbing three: Dartmouth College; Cornell University; the universities of Virginia, California-Berkeley, Michigan-Ann Arbor and Texas-Austin; Washington University in St. Louis; the U.S. Air Force Academy; Northwestern University; and the California Institute of Technology.

Craig Filar is the director of Florida State University's Office of National Fellowships. He has noticed that word is really getting around about the university's rapid-fire succession of wins on the national front.

"Across the country, we're now viewed as a force to be reckoned with," he said.

While the Office of National Fellowships has evolved into an increasingly expert guide through a complex, extremely competitive application and interview process, the quantity, quality and diversity of fellowships won and the speed with which they have accrued reflect first and foremost the caliber of students at Florida State.

"Our students have always been amazing, but until recently, they simply didn't have a centralized conduit on campus to the wealth of national fellowships out there," President T.K. Wetherell said. "Now that they do, it goes to show that at a large public institution in the South such as The Florida State University, outstanding individuals with Rhodes potential can shine and win just as they could at an Ivy League college in the Northeast — and sometimes, as we've demonstrated here since 2005, even more so."

Not surprisingly, the Rhodes Scholars of Florida State — recipients of the most distinguished student award in the academic world — epitomize extraordinary achievement and exceptional potential for more on the national and world stage. They are accomplished student and NCAA shot-put champion Garrett Johnson (2006), the university's second Rhodes Scholar but the first in the 30 years since Caroline Alexander's 1976 win; former student body president Joe O'Shea (2008), a community leader whose good works have helped the sick and needy from Tallahassee to Rwanda; and Myron Rolle (2009), a college football All-American and an aspiring surgeon who plans to open a free medical clinic in the Bahamas, where his parents were born.

But also extraordinary: The more than 40 other nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships collected by Florida State students — clearly among the nation's best — since the 5-year-old Office of National Fellowships opened for business. So far, these honors include three Truman Scholarships, a trio of Goldwater Scholarships, a Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship and Udall Scholarship, and an impressive total of 26 Fulbright Fellowships.

By Libby Fairhurst

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