Yale student from Belvedere among Rhodes Scholars

Brent Ainsworth
Contra Costa Times
Belvedere, MO

Geoffrey Shaw of Belvedere was philosophical when he learned Sunday that he'd been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and will get to study at the University of Oxford next year.

It comes naturally to him as a philosophy major at Yale University.

"I'm stunned and humbled and delighted," he said Sunday.

Shaw, 21, already had plans to head home for the Thanksgiving holiday and came out a little bit early when he was asked to show up for Rhodes panel interviews Saturday on the University of California at San Francisco campus. Seven panelists talked to him for about 35 minutes over two separate interviews, he said.

"I found it very conversational," he said. "They were very nice, but it was clear they don't mess around. It was a great experience."

As to why he was chosen for one of the nation's most prestigious awards for a college student, he said, "I'm trying to answer that question myself."

The winners were selected from 805 applicants at 326 schools, and join an international group of scholars. There were 32 winners from the United States - two each from 16 districts around the country. The other Northern California recipient was Saratoga's Henry R. Barmeier, who attends Princeton University.

The students' expenses will be covered for up to three years at Oxford in England. The scholarships, worth about $50,000 per year, are awarded for attributes that include high academic achievement, personal integrity, leadership potential and physical vigor.

Another Belvedere resident, Ian Klaus, was named a Rhodes Scholar in 2001. Klaus received international attention for dating Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, while at Oxford. Klaus was attending Washington University of St. Louis when he was chosen and went on to study history at Harvard. Today, he is an author and historian.

Shaw, son of Ward Shaw and Heather Cameron, attended Marin Country Day School in Corte Madera and University High School in San Francisco. He was captain of the University golf team and a regular at Mill Valley Golf Course. Athletic excellence is one criteria for a Rhodes Scholarship.

Shaw credited Jon Raider and Sarah Pelmas of the University High staff for their guidance. Raider is the director of college counseling and Pelmas was dean of students and now an English teacher.

Shaw will graduate from Yale in May with a bachelor's degree in philosophy. Although Yale students do not have academic minors, Shaw said he will have the equivalent amount of units in linguistics. He will leave for Oxford in October 2010 to study the philosophy of law.

"This just happened, so I don't really know how it works out," he said. "I will figure it out in the months ahead."

Among his extracurricular activities at Yale are serving as editor-in-chief of the undergrad-run Yale Philosophy Review, serving on the university's Executive Committee for disciplinary actions and chairing the Independent Party of the Yale Political Union.

He has been the head freshman counselor at Branford College, one of the colleges at Yale, providing academic and personal support to first-year students.

Shaw had simple advice to share with other young students: "Find a subject you love and study your ass off."