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Richardson is a Rhodes Scholarship finalist

lee richardson
 Lee Richardson
Senior Lee Richardson was very well prepared for his Rhodes Scholarship finalist interview, but that didn’t mean the Rhodes panel wasn’t capable of throwing him a curve ball or two in the way it posed its questions.

“Probably the most difficult question that threw me off a bit at first involved a hypothetical situation where I was dealing with a deficit reduction plan for the United States government,” Richardson said. “The committee could cut $500 million from the budget of either Medicare or the National Endowment for the Arts.

“I thought they would ask me to choose one and defend it, but they told me to make a case for cutting Medicare and saving the arts. They did this, knowing full well that healthcare was my passion and my future career.”

In his response, Richardson said he referenced the importance
of the arts and crafts heritages of places like Berea, Ky., and even threw in a James Joyce reference when he pictured the arts as offering “portals of discovery” that can illuminate the past and show us our mistakes as well as our triumphs.

The experience of stretching his mind and fielding the interesting questions coming from the panel members was a highlight of what Richardson took away from his Rhodes application, preparation, and interview process.

As one of 12 finalists in District IX, which includes Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio, Richardson was invited to Indianapolis in November for the interview that would determine the two winners from that group. Though he was not offered a Rhodes Scholarship, just being a finalist put him in an elite group of 830 finalists from 299 colleges and universities across the country.

“We are all very proud of Lee for being selected a Rhodes finalist,” said President R. Owen Williams. “We congratulate him on his extraordinary accomplishment and for carrying the Transylvania banner in such an exemplary manner.”

Richardson gives a fair amount of credit to the Transylvania community for helping him get as far as he did.

“When it was learned that I had an interview, President Williams was on the phone to professors and people from the Lexington professional community, asking them to come in and help me prepare through mock interviews,” he said. “I also had one-on-one interviews with my professors, trying to understand the process of reflecting on my past by reviewing what I had learned in their courses. The Rhodes organization values that exercise very much.”

The experience also left him with lasting benefits.

“‘Believe in yourself’ is something very important that I got out of this,” Richardson said. “It may sound trite, but I felt that, even though I didn’t get the scholarship, I was very competitive for it. Afterwards, several of the judges told me that I had held my own against the two winners, who were from Princeton and Harvard. They said, ‘If you’re like the other students at Transylvania, then we are very impressed with your institution.’”

Richardson is a biochemistry and Spanish double major from Nicholasville, Ky., and a recipient of a Transylvania Scholarship. He has a strong interest in Latin America, as shown by his extracurricular activities. He has been to Ecuador as a medical intern, Costa Rica for storm relief, and Mexico to construct sustainable housing for homeless families.

As an aspiring physician, Richardson has been applying and interviewing at medical schools and is also applying for a Fulbright research grant to study sexual health, education, and youth in Ecuador.

“Transylvania has given me this environment where I can succeed, not only in the classroom but outside of it as well,” Richardson said. “It has helped me with the crucial process of evaluating myself, understanding why I have been drawn to things I have already achieved, and seeing how that projects into my future.”

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