Noelle Lopez Named School's First Female Rhodes Scholar

Nov. 23, 2008

Click here to read the Runners World interview with Noelle Lopez!

Bronco head coach Tom Service frequently describes Noelle Lopez as 'someone who really breaks the mold' and that she did on Sat., Nov. 22! Santa Clara University cross country captain Noelle Lopez was named one of the 32 American Rhodes Scholars on Saturday - the first-ever female Rhodes Scholar in Santa Clara school history. Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr. '55 was Santa Clara's first Rhodes Scholar in 1955.

Lopez will attend graduate school at Oxford University in England upon graduation.

"It hasn't sunk in yet, but it's becoming a bit more real because now I need to apply to Oxford. I don't think it will really be real until I am on the airplane flying over there," said Lopez who has one more track season left in her collegiate running career. She is a 2005 graduate of Sal Pointe Catholic High School in Tucson, Arizona.

"I really enjoy being a student-athlete at Santa Clara," said Lopez who expects to graduate in June of 2009 from Santa Clara with a degree in Philosophy before moving on to graduate school at Oxford University where she will work on a graduate degree in Philosophy. "Winning this is a great honor and an opportunity. I am so thrilled to share it with my teammates and the entire university. Everyone at Santa Clara has been so supportive."

At SCU, Lopez has been a standout leader in the area of ethics, a field she plans to continue studying at Oxford. Through the Hackworth fellowship, she has been focusing with her peers on the question: "What do we mean when we use the term 'social justice'?" She has also been a peer educator for the class "Ethical Issues in Society" as well as an English-as-a-Second-Language tutor through the Santa Clara Community Action Program.

Lopez has already garnered some of Santa Clara University's highest awards, including numerous scholarships, prizes, and grants. Consistently on the Dean's list, she also was one of three recipients of the Hackworth Fellowships in Applied Ethics and received the Donovan Fellowship grant for students wishing to deepen their knowledge of social justice through a community-based learning experience.

"The entire Santa Clara University community congratulates Noelle for her well-deserved recognition,'' said Santa Clara President Paul L. Locatelli, S.J. "Her outstanding scholastic, athletic, and personal achievements reflect the best of the Jesuit ideal - the education of the whole person. She is also a stellar model of Santa Clara's vision of educating leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion -values that we strive to infuse in every student."

"I would like to personally congratulate Noelle for this remarkable achievement," said Jamie Zaninovich, the West Coast Conference Commissioner. "The Rhodes Scholarship represents the personification of the student-athlete ideal, and those who are deemed worthy of its honor can pride themselves on having lived up to its lofty standard. Noelle certainly fits this mold and we are honored and humbled by her presence as a West Coast Conference student-athlete."

"The Santa Clara community could not be more proud of Noelle Lopez on this incredible honor," said Santa Clara Athletic Director Dan Coonan. "In so many ways she is the consummate Jesuit-educated student-athlete. She is a brilliant student, a gifted athlete and leader on her team. She has a huge heart, which is evidenced by her commitment to community service and social justice. On top of all this she has a very modest and unassuming personality that people are naturally drawn to. She is an inspiration to us all."

Service couldn't be prouder of Lopez, the team captain and scorer in every race this season. She is someone he said has been the consummate student-athlete since Day 1.

"When she was injured earlier in her career she worked harder than anyone cross-training in the pool for hours (even in the rain). I think they made her get out of the pool once because there was lightning in the area," said Service, grinning from ear to ear. "The past year she and her fellow seniors have been amazing role models for our young team. Noelle's list of volunteer activities is incredible. The best part is she is so unassuming and down to earth. Noelle is an incredibly nice girl who happens to possess a billion talents. I am sure this sounds naïve, but I really thought she was going to get the Rhodes. That alone speaks volumes as to how outstanding an individual she is."

Lopez is one of 32 American winners selected from 769 applicants who were endorsed by 207 colleges.

British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes created the international scholarships in 1902 for students who show excellent academic achievement, character, leadership potential and athletic vigor. The scholarships typically average about $50,000 per year for postgraduate study at Oxford University.

The Rhodes Scholarships, the oldest international fellowships, were initiated after the death of Cecil Rhodes in 1902, and bring outstanding students from many countries around the world to the University of Oxford. The first American Scholars were elected in 1904. American Rhodes Scholars are selected through a decentralized process by which regional selection committees choose 32 Scholars each year from among those nominated by selection committees in each of the 50 states among 16 Districts.