By Jeff Amy
JACKSON – Donald “Field” Brown, a Mississippi State University senior who co-founded a literary magazine at the school, has been named a Rhodes Scholar.
The Rhodes Trust announced Sunday the English and philosophy major was one of 32 people in the U.S. who will enter Oxford University next October.
The winners were selected from 857 applicants. The scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the prestigious university in England.
“It’s still surreal right now,” Brown, a Vicksburg native, said Sunday from St. Louis. “I’ve never been speechless until I heard my name called to the get the scholarship.”
Brown, 22, is the university’s second Rhodes Scholar and the first since 1911.
In addition to co-founding “The Streetcar,” a literary magazine, Brown served as president of the Philosophy and Religion Club, has been a member of the school’s Roadrunners team, which recruits prospective students, and has been active in intramural sports.
He hopes to seek a doctorate in African-American literature. The 2010 Vicksburg High School graduate said loved literature since his family was reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” together. His father, Willie Brown, cried over the death of character Tom Robinson, a black man wrongly accused of raping a young white woman.
“I really knew then that books had a lot of power, if my dad could cry over a fictional character,” said Brown, who plans to pursue parallel master’s degrees in American and English literature at Oxford, focusing on its interaction after World War II.
Brown said university officials first suggested he consider applying about two years ago.
“He’s got great charisma and great humility,” said Christopher Snyder, the school’s honors college dead. “Pair that with great intellect and we all had hopes he would do well.”
Like many universities, the school grooms candidates for prestigious postgraduate scholarships, but with its emphasis on engineering and agriculture, it has had fewer students win Rhodes Scholarships compared with the University of Mississippi and Millsaps College in Jackson.
Mississippi State President Mark Keenum, who taught Brown in a leadership class in 2012, said he hoped Brown’s victory would promote the university’s strength in the humanities.
“It certainly demonstrates the outstanding education you can get at Mississippi State,” Keenum said. “We also excel in the humanities. We are a well-rounded university.”
Brown credited his parents for encouraging him to maximize his potential. His brother, Willie Brown Jr., earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in psychology.
“My mom and dad told me, whatever the world has to offer, you can do it,” Brown said.
Rhodes Scholarships were created in 1902 by the will of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes. Winners are selected on the basis of high academic achievement, personal integrity, leadership potential and physical vigor. The value of the scholarships averages about $50,000 per year.