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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI’s Rhodes Scholar to give commencement address

KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 22, 2002 -- University of Rhode Island President Robert L. Carothers today announced that URI’s first Rhodes Scholar, Rachel Walshe, will be the speaker at this year’s undergraduate commencement. Commencement will be held Sunday, May 19.

Walshe graduated from URI in 2000 and was selected a 2002 Rhodes Scholar in December. The Rhodes, the most selective and competitive scholarship in the nation, if not the world, has long been considered the exclusive purview of the Ivy Leagues. Walshe was one of only four public college students (out of 32) to win the prestigious scholarship. Nine hundred twenty five scholars competed nationally.

"Rachel Walshe represents everything we have dreamed about for URI," said Carothers. "She is an artist, a scholar, an athlete and more. In her studies, she wrestles with ideas that are for the ages and gives them expression in a theater that is bold and innovative and new. She has made us all proud, and I am absolutely certain that the best from Rachel Walshe is yet to come."

"I am both excited and anxious to deliver the commencement speech to this year's graduating class," said Walshe. "Never would I have imagined that merely two years following my own march across the quad, I would occupy the stage as its keynote speaker. To be given the opportunity to address the students of the University of Rhode Island on the most important day of their college careers is an honor."

Local fame hasn’t changed Walshe who grew up in Warwick, graduated from Pilgrim High School, and gathered honors, awards, grants, and admiration at URI. "I still drive around in the same 1992 Ford Tempo with the banged up side door and no side mirror," she says with a smile.

Walshe worked as literary associate at Trinity Repertory Company for the 2000-2001 season and is currently the full-time manager at the Perishable Theater in Providence. She also works weekends at Chili’s Restaurant in Warwick.

Walshe sees her working-class background as a real bonus. During her time at URI where she studied philosophy and theater, Walshe maintained one foot in the working world and one foot in the academic world. A stance, she says, that has given her an invaluable perspective of people and their challenges.

She credits her parents for encouraging her to pursue her dreams without letting financial hardship block the way. When she was 7, she begged to ride a horse. Her father took her to a local stable. Unable to pay for lessons, Walshe traded cleaning stalls for the opportunity to ride. She continued working and volunteering at local stables throughout her schooling. Today she is an accomplished and prize-winning equestrian.

The Rhodes will take Walshe to England in October where she will study dramatic literature and theater at Brasenose College, Oxford University for two years.

Her career plans are still in the formative stage, leaving room for possibilities. Right now, she is leaning toward becoming a director and/or a dramaturg.

She feels strongly about access to the performing arts. "If I had my way, there would never be a box office. Theaters would be free. I know from personal experience as a student that even a dollar can shut people out," she said.
For Information: Jan Wenzel, 401-874-2116

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