Standout VIrginia student named Rhodes Scholar

Fourth-year College student Joe Riley will study at Oxford University on prestigious scholarship
Julia Horowitz
Cavalier Daily
Charlottesville, VA

Athens, Tenn. is a long way from Charlottesville, and an even longer way from Oxford University. But for fourth-year College student Joe Riley, who was named a Rhodes Scholar Saturday, Tennessee is where it all began.

Riley has learned to balance a host of contradictions that have shaped who he is as a student and a soldier. Born in a small town with almost no Asian residents, he would become fluent in Chinese and develop his undergraduate expertise on U.S.-China relations. A proponent of avoiding international conflict, Riley would also choose to enter the military, ultimately ranking among the top 10 Army ROTC cadets in the nation.

The best way to describe Riley may be through one of his mentors, Economics Prof. Ken Elzinga. It was Elzinga who held the engagement ring when Riley proposed to his fiancée on Beta Bridge — three years after the professor watched Riley save a woman’s life.

“We were out to lunch to discuss the possibility of Joe studying Chinese, when a woman began choking to death at a nearby table,” Elzinga said. “I asked Joe if he’d ever performed the Heimlich maneuver before, and he said that he hadn’t but he’d give it a try. I truly believe Joe saved that woman’s life. When he came to me two weeks later saying that he’d had to give mouth-to-mouth to an unconscious TA in lecture, I had to assure him that this wasn’t typical of University life.”

Riley’s efforts were rewarded Saturday when he earned the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. Created in 1902 based on the will of Cecil Rhodes, the scholarship is awarded based on high academic achievement, integrity, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential leadership and physical vigor.

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