Air Force Academy cadet with Bala Cynwyd ties awarded Rhodes Scholarship

Zachary Crippen, 20, was named a Rhodes Scholar over the weekend. (Courtesy: Zachary Crippen)
Zachary Crippen, 20, was named a Rhodes Scholar over the weekend. (Courtesy: Zachary Crippen)

Zachary Crippen was the first half-hour interview of 12 finalists on Saturday, Nov. 19. He felt relief immediatley after exiting the room in the Wells Fargo building in Colorado Springs, where an eight-member committee drilled him on academics, extracurricular activities and anything else involving his higher education and work experience.

"I worked as hard as I could to get to that point and nothing at that point would have changed their minds," Crippen, 20, said. "I went in with the peace of mind that I had done all I could and from then it was in God's hands."

Nearly two hours after the final interview ended, the 12 finalsts walked back into the room. The eight-member committee named two finalists Rhodes Scholars from District 13 ; Crippen, a cadet at the Air Force Academy, was one of them.

The Rhodes Scholarships, founded by Cecil Rhodes in 1903, are postgraduate awards given internationally to students demonstrating excellence across various categories, especially academic performance, public and community service and leadership. As a Rhodes Scholar, students conduct postgraduate study at the University of Oxford in England, all expenses paid by the scholarship program.

About 83 applicants are chosen from the thousands of applications submitted each year.  Only 32 U.S. citizens from a system of 16 geographical districts receive the award.

Crippen, who has an interdisciplinary major in foriegn area studies focusing on the Middle East, and a minor in Arabic language, said he intends to pursue a postgraduate course of study incorporating law, international relations, public policy and global governance and diplomacy. While studying as a Rhodes Scholar, he said he plans to begin his required five years of service for the Air Force.

"Politics is definitely on my mind," Crippen said. "I can't say where exactly I'll be 20-30 years from now. I came to the Air Force wanting to serve my country, and that I know is something I want to do for the rest of my life."

Crippen's father, Alan, who has lived in Bala Cynwyd with his wife and Crippen's mother, Michelle, since June, isn't surprised his son intends to use education for a public service career. He added that he and his wife are proud of his son, who he says does everything with a great deal of grace and humility.

"I remember him saying to us before he [got the award], 'There are so many impressive young men and women in this room, and regardless of the outcome, I want to be graceful because it's honor just being here,'" Alan Crippen said.

"My wife and I are very proud of Zachary," he added. "He's worked very hard and been very's very humbling as parents to see our son selected through this process."

Crippen said it was an honor meeting his fellow District 13 finalists, including Harvard senior and Colorado resident Samuel Galler, whom he said studies East Asian health policy. Crippen was shocked and thrilled when he heard the committeee say his name.

"I was shocked as soon as I heard my name," he said. "I started to tear up because this has been a life dream of mine."

"Anyone in that room could have been a Rhodes Scholarship winner...I'm convinced all of them will save the world or change it in some way," Crippen added. "Overall this has been an incredible and humbling experience."