DURHAM, N.C.—Former Duke University tennis player and 2007 graduate Parker Goyer earned perhaps her biggest award when she was named one of 32 American Rhodes Scholars yesterday, Sat., Nov. 22. The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest international educational fellowship and is considered the most prestigious postgraduate academic award for American college graduates.
“It’s something I really wanted to get for four or five years, and I just feel really lucky and honored to get it today,” Goyer said.
Goyer was chosen from among 769 applicants at 207 colleges from around the country. She is the 41st Rhodes Scholar from Duke and just the fifth Blue Devil student-athlete to win the honor. The other four winners include Chas Salmen of the cross country and track and field team in 2007, John Sauer of the wrestling team in 1997, football’s Rex Adams in 1962, and field hockey’s Virginia Seitz in 1978.
A native of Birmingham, Ala., Goyer was a three-year letterwinner for the Blue Devils’ tennis team. She posted a 9-2 record as a senior and a 20-14 overall record in her three letterwinning seasons.
“It’s a great achievement for her,” Duke women’s tennis head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “It says a lot about her as an individual that she is able to use what she learned at Duke and apply it to situations in the real world and away from Duke’s campus. She’s going to be successful at anything she does. She is an absolutely amazing individual and we were lucky to have her be a part of our program.”
As a senior, Goyer started the process of creating a program called “Coach for College”, in which college athletes go to rural communities in developing countries to work with middle-school aged children. She worked closely with the Duke administration and many other people from around the country to gain funding for the initiative. The program’s goal is to utilize sports to help middle school students in rural communities develop academic and life skills needed to successfully attend a college or university.
“She took it upon herself to write proposals and work with the Duke administration,” Ashworth said. “That’s just how she is - very selfless and looking out for others. It’s an absolutely great thing for her and her family.”
In March of 2008, Goyer and six other Duke student-athletes spent spring break in Vietnam to conduct advance planning for Coach for College. The trip was organized and designed by Goyer to ensure the program’s initial success that summer.
Goyer hopes to build on this program to include more universities and other countries. She developed the idea after trips in the summer of 2007 to Belize and Vietnam. This past January, she brought the idea of Coach for College to Duke administrators and received strong encouragement -- and $130,000 in monetary support -- from the provost’s office, the office of the dean of undergraduate education and the athletics department. Various offices at North Carolina contributed another $68,000 and the NCAA contributed $10,000 more.
She recently received a $175,000 grant from the U.S. State Department and renewed support from the two universities to continue the program in Vietnam in 2009. Coach for College is now administered by the Duke Center for Civic Engagement.
Goyer said she plans to study international comparative education at Oxford and find ways to expand the Coach for College program to other countries around the world. The scholarship begins in October of 2009. She majored in psychology with a concentration in neuroscience and currently is enrolled in the doctoral program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She will take a leave of absence to pursue a master’s degree at Oxford.
Rhodes Scholarships, created in 1902 by the will of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes, provide two or three years of study at Oxford University in England. Recipients are selected on the basis of high academic achievement, personal integrity, leadership potential and physical vigor, among other attributes.
The value of the Rhodes Scholarship varies depending on the academic field, the degree (B.A., master’s, doctoral) and the Oxford college chosen. The Rhodes Trust pays all college and university fees, provides a stipend to cover necessary expenses while in residence in Oxford and during vacations, and transportation to and from England.