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Pinellas woman named Rhodes scholar

A University of Pennsylvania student from Tierra Verde is among this year's winners of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships.

Abigail P. Seldin, a 20-year-old anthropology student, organized an exhibit about the previously unknown history of Lenape Indians that is now on display at the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

Seldin is one of 32 men and women from across the United States to win the scholarships for study at England's Oxford University. Winners were officially announced Sunday, but Seldin received the news after an interview with a selection committee on Saturday.

"I was shocked," Seldin said. "I didn't say anything for about five minutes. I managed 'Thank you' and 'I'm honored' but my mind was blank."

Seldin, who plans to graduate in May with a bachelor's and a master's degree in anthropology, became the first undergraduate to curate an exhibit at the university's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

History books say the Lenape tribe left Pennsylvania by 1803, Seldin said, but there were some who stayed behind, intermarrying with whites but quietly continuing their indigenous ways through the generations.

Seldin said she admired the survival of cultural traditions despite the difficulty involved in maintaining them in secret.

Seldin said she will postpone plans to co-author a book with Chief Robert Ruth of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania while she studies social anthropology abroad.

Though her family lives in Tierra Verde, Seldin attended a boarding school at Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts. She graduated in 2005.

She is not the only 2008 Rhodes winner with Florida ties.

Florida State University college football star safety Myron Rolle, who had to miss part of Saturday's game against Maryland for his Rhodes interview, also received the award.

Rolle, of New Jersey, is a pre-med student and hopes to become a neurosurgeon.

"It was a very exciting day, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to study at Oxford," Rolle said after arriving in College Park, Md., to play in the second half of the game.

Well-known Rhodes scholars from the United States include former President Bill Clinton, former basketball star and Sen. Bill Bradley, author and social critic Naomi Wolf and former Gen. Wesley Clark.

The winners were picked from 769 applicants endorsed by 207 colleges and universities nationwide. The students will enter Oxford University in England — the world's oldest English-language university — next October.

Created in 1902, the scholarships are the oldest of the international study awards available to American students and provide for two or three years of study. The scholarships have an estimated value of $50,000 for each year of study.

Since the program's inception, 3,164 Americans from 309 colleges and universities have won Rhodes Scholarships.

This report includes information from the Associated Press and Times archives. Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4162.

Pinellas woman named Rhodes scholar 11/23/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 6:17pm]
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