Air Force's Rebecca Esselstein Named 2015 Rhodes Scholar


VIENNA, Va. – Air Force senior distance runner Rebecca Esselstein was named a Rhodes Scholar for 2015, the prestigious Rhodes Trust announced over the weekend. Esselstein, a native of Dayton, Ohio, is the Academy’s 38th recipient of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship and the 12th cadet-athlete to earn the honor.

Esselstein is the fourth Mountain West student-athlete to be named a Rhodes Scholar, joining Brittany Morreale (Air Force, track and field, 2009), Delvanae Diaz (Air Force, volleyball, 2004) and Jessica Mellinger (Wyoming, women's golf, 2000).

An astronautical engineering major, Esselstein is a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-America selection and has combined for six academic all-conference awards as a member of the Falcons’ track/field and cross country teams. She is currently ranked first overall in the Class of 2015, while also holding No. 1 rankings academically and militarily.

“I couldn’t have done this without all the help and support I’ve had along the way,” Esselstein said over the weekend. “My mentors within the faculty have been exceptional, and so has my support system both in squad and down at the track.”

Currently serving as a Flight Commander, Esselstein is a three-time member of the Dean’s Aces List and has been named to the Superintendent’s List for excellence in military, academic and athletic performance in five of six semesters. She has done research at M.I.T. on radar and infrared signatures, and was an Aspen Institute Socrates Program Scholar studying the U.S. Supreme Court.

On the track, Esselstein has claimed all-MW honors as a member of the distance medley relay team during each of the last two seasons. She ran the leadoff leg of the DMR that captured the conference title in 2013 and helped the squad to the fourth-fastest time in Academy history last year. As an 800-meter runner, she set the Academy’s fifth-fastest indoor time (2:12.56, adjusted for altitude) as a sophomore and clocked the program’s ninth-fastest outdoor time (2:14.09) as a junior.

Esselstein, who was also selected as a Marshall Scholarship recipient earlier this fall, was one of 32 students selected from across the United States to be named a Rhodes Scholar. The group, which was selected from a pool of 877 candidates that had been nominated by their colleges and universities, will join an international group from around the world and begin their studies at the University of Oxford in October 2015.

“It doesn’t feel real,” Esselstein added. “I’ve been working towards this since February, and I can’t count the number of runs I’ve had thinking about what I wanted to put in my personal statement or what it would be like to get the scholarship. I’ve very excited, though a little nervous, to be honest. I hope to pursue my passion for space and study astrophysics at Oxford.”

The Rhodes Scholarships, the oldest and best know award for international study, were created in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, British philanthropist and African colonial pioneer. Applicants are chosen on the basis of criteria set in the will, including high academic achievement, integrity of character, potential for leadership, and commitment to making a strong difference in the world.

Esselstein is the third member of the Air Force track and field/cross country program to earn the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship award, joining Bob Baxter (1962) and Brittany Morreale (2009).