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Christian Hunt Garners Davidson's 23rd Rhodes Scholarship

Rhodes Scholar Christian Hunt
Rhodes Scholar Christian M. Hunt.

Christian M. Hunt, a Davidson College senior from Kannapolis,N.C., has won one of undergraduate education's highest honors, a Rhodes Scholarship for study at Oxford University in England. Hunt and three other winners from mid-Eastern states were selected in Washington, D.C., on Saturday afternoon, December 4, and are among 32 winners nationwide. A double major in English and German with strong interests in music and literature, Hunt is the 23rd Davidson Rhodes Scholar.

He is the son of William H. Hunt and the late Brenda Wilkinson Hunt.

He began taking violin lessons at age 3, and now plays several instruments in college musical ensembles. His English honors thesis covers musical structures and forms in James Joyce's novel, Ulysses.

He is president of the Philanthropic Literary Society, editor of the Hobart Park literary magazine, was instrumental director for the student production ofHair, and works for radio station WDAV as announcer and producer.

Hunt said he was grateful to Davidson for helping him achieve the best possible education, and added, "I am particularly indebted to many individual professors and student friends who have helped me in this endeavor and many other things."

Davidson faculty members warmly greeted news of Hunt's success. "If there is a more deserving kid at Davidson, I haven't met him," said Zoran Kuzmanovich, who serves as his major advisor in the English department. "Christian is capable of facing great misfortune with serenity and dignity; he is one of the very few people I've met who can actually use adversity as fuel for achievement. And his achievements are considerable because in both Christian's prose and his music one hears echoes of a fine mind that documents, celebrates, and even grieves the passing of all that is tender and fragile in people and places," added Kuzmanovich.

His academic adviser in German, Scott Denham, called Hunt "an incredible stylist with tremendous intellectual and artistic power." Denham recalled a moment during his "Holocaust" course study of the Anne Frank story last year. Hunt and other students were to reflect on a slide of a Dutch storefront bearing a sign,"No Jews Allowed." Denham recalled, "Christian wrote in ten minutes a perfectly formed lyric poem, almost a sonnet in structure, in the voice of one of Anne's cats. This cat knew too much and couldn't bear the weight. It moved the class to tears."

Teaching Hunt was an extraordinary learning experience, said Denham. "He sees things in new ways. He wrote a scholarship essay explaining his interest in cities as large and complex tonal instruments, and describing how he would study that as a reflection of cultures."

Davidson faculty member Mark McCulloh served as Hunt's resident advisor during the 1998-99 academic year abroad in Würzburg, Germany. McCulloh marveled at the speed with which Hunt learned the German language. "His ear for language and dialect are so good that he now speaks near-perfect German with a delightful Franconian lilt! He can pass not only as a German, but as a Bavarian! He's one of those students who grasped the structure of the language, which is so important, with ease."

Hunt bought a pawned Fender guitar, played and sang in an Irish pub in Würzburg with locals and Davidson friends, and worked as McCulloh's office assistant. McCulloh continued, "I can't tell you how much this news pleases me. Christian is one of brightest and most humane students I've encountered in my 17 years at Davidson . It's wonderful when someone as modest as this young man gets to the pinnacle. He brings a lot of humanity to everything he does." Denham, his academic advisor, said Hunt's embrace of German culture last year matured him and gave him a good platform for his Rhodes application. Denham also revealed that Hunt considered applying only after persistent last-minute prodding and recommendation-writing by members of the college's Graduate Fellowships committee.

Hunt admitted the tardiness, then said the opportunity for another experience abroad and unparalleled resources at Oxford in English language and literature were too great to ignore.
Cecil Rhodes
Cecil J. Rhodes

The Rhodes Scholarships were initiated after the death of Cecil Rhodes in 1902, and bring outstanding students from many countries around the world to the University of Oxford. American Rhodes Scholars are selected through a decentralized process by which regional selection committees choose 32 scholars each year from among those nominated by selection committees in each of the 50 states.

Intellectual distinction is a necessary condition for selection, but not sufficient in itself. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The scholarship covers all expenses for two years of study in the University of Oxford, with the possibility of renewal for a third year.

Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 22 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by "U.S. News and World Report" magazine.

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