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Robinson and Rhodes: A Perfect Fit

Jim Amidon — I vividly remember when I interviewed Jeremy Robinson ’04 for a Works in Progress feature in Wabash Magazine. We talked about everything — travel, politics, religion, family, and Wabash. It was obvious to me then that Robinson was a young man wise beyond his years; his life experiences neatly woven with his intellectual curiosity to produce a bright, sensitive, and thoughtful person. He wanted to be a teacher, he told me. "Wow," I thought. "He’s the kind of teacher I wish I had when I was a kid."

I am not at all surprised that the Rhodes Scholarship committee selected him as a Rhodes Scholar, Wabash’s eighth and first since 1966.

As one of Wabash’s top graduates in 2004, Jeremy probably could have gone anywhere or done anything. Fred Wilson, CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue, spotted the potential in a half-hour meeting with Robinson at Saks’ headquarters. Wilson told Robinson that if teaching didn’t work out for him to come see him.

Teaching has worked out for Robinson. Joining the ultra-competitive Teach for America program seemed like a perfect fit for someone who told me as a college senior how discouraged he was with the inequities in America’s public schools. At Harper High School in Chicago, Robinson has seen education at its worst; he also has seen the positive impact he can have on young people. And that’s precisely what Teach for America hopes to accomplish when it places the country’s best and brightest college graduates into the nation’s neediest schools.

Harper will lose Robinson next year when he heads to Oxford to seek a second undergraduate English degree. My hunch is that when Jeremy returns to the States after finishing his Rhodes Scholarship, he will be even better suited to tackle the problems in America’s public schools.