Two Yalies — Prateek Tandon ’03 and Chesa Boudin ’03 — will head to Oxford University this fall as winners of the nation’s premier academic award, the Rhodes Scholarship.
Tandon and Boudin were two of 32 American students who received scholarships for two to three years of study at Oxford. The scholarships, established in 1902 through the will of Cecil Rhodes, were designed to honor academic achievement, integrity, leadership and athletics.
Tandon, an African studies and economics major in Pierson College, plays varsity tennis and started a relief program for war victims in Kashmir. He also started a soup kitchen in New Haven.
“My getting picked for this award is certainly much more a reflection of the efforts of my family, friends, professors and mentors than anything that I’ve done,” Tandon said.
No stranger to studying abroad, Tandon has worked with community groups in India, Somalia and Tanzania. At Oxford, he will pursue a doctorate in development studies.
Boudin, a history major in Trumbull College, turned down the Marshall Scholarship to accept the Rhodes this weekend.
The son of imprisoned radicals from the Weathermen group, Boudin garnered national attention this week, appearing on the front page of the New York Times and receiving requests for interviews from ABC’s “Good Morning America” and Newsweek magazine.
When Boudin was 14 months old, his parents were arrested for their roles in a 1981 robbery that left two police officers and a guard dead. Two former Weathermen leaders, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, raised Boudin in Chicago.
“In spite of the challenges I faced and all of these difficulties, I was in many ways very lucky and privileged as a child, certainly in comparison to other children with parents in prison,” Boudin said. “[My biological parents] missed things as big as my high school graduation. They will miss my Yale graduation. I couldn’t call them. They weren’t there. They couldn’t be there.”
Dohrn said Boudin demonstrated the importance of not giving up on stigmatized children.
“It’s very sweet to watch a kid who has struggled to come into his own,” Dohrn said. “In a way, the harder the struggle, the more sweet the moment.”
Following in his parents’ activist footsteps, Boudin has been central to the efforts of the Yale Coalition for Peace. Boudin spent his junior year abroad, studying Latin American development at the University of Chile. At Oxford, he plans to work for a master’s degree in philosophy in development studies.
Robert Perkinson GRD ’01, who taught Boudin in his “History of the American Prison” course, said despite having a biased impression of the American prison system, Boudin was able to fairly acknowledge different viewpoints. Perkinson described Boudin as a moral anchor in the classroom.
“It’s quite heartening that a program developed by Cecil Rhodes, who in some ways is a symbol of everything ugly about colonialism and white supremacy, could evolve into a program that gives students like Chesa a real chance to achieve at an international stage,” said Perkinson, now a professor at the University of Hawaii. “Cecil Rhodes might be spinning in his grave.”