Kenyan Named Virginia Military Institute’s 10th Rhodes Scholar
Star student and athlete Michael Lokale says his life has been filled with many blessings. And now, as the Virginia Military Institute’s 10th Rhodes Scholar, the first classman is looking forward to yet another.
As one of only two Kenyans selected from a pool of more than 250 applicants for the prestigious Rhodes award, the scholarship will allow him to pursue graduate work in a college of the University of Oxford beginning next fall.
Lokale, the second of five children and eldest son of poor corn farmers living in Eldoret, Kenya, was inspired from an early age by the accomplishments of his cousin, Paul Ereng. Combining academic and athletic excellence, Ereng earned an athletic scholarship from the University of Virginia, where he excelled in track. Ereng won the gold medal for Kenya in the 800-meter run in the 1988 Summer Olympics held in Seoul, Korea.
“Paul is my great role model,” said Lokale in an interview last year. “Paul realized that education and running could be a way to change his life. I’ve paid attention to his example.”
Determined to follow in his cousin’s footsteps, Lokale worked hard in the classroom and on the track. “I was fortunate to go to the best high school in Kenya. We were taught great study skills. When one does something every day, one gets used to it,” he says. And by his junior year, Lokale was beating all of his high school competition in the 400- and 800-meter events.
With just five universities in Kenya, competition is great for admission. While American collegians choose their majors, Kenyan college students are assigned majors. Lokale was accepted to a university, but was assigned to be an economics major. He looked to the United States for opportunities to pursue his dreams of medical study.
“There are very few doctors in Africa, and even fewer available to treat the poor. Someday I would like to return to my country and try to help with that problem. I believe that would be a noble undertaking,” Lokale says.
VMI’s head track and cross country coach Brig. Gen. Michael Bozeman recruited Lokale to the school after hearing of his running prowess from a fellow coach.
“He has made a commitment to make the very best of the VMI experience,” Bozeman says. “He has earned academic stars while majoring in biology and studied at Oxford (in the summer of 2001). He is a respectable cross-country runner, and he’s a conference champion in his specialty, the middle distance events. He is a joy to coach because he does all he can to reach his potential,” Bozeman says.
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