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Ayer Named Rhodes Scholar

By David D. Hsu
News Editor

Toby H. Ayer '96, a student double majoring in physics and linguistics, was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship on Sunday. The scholarship provides two full years of support for study at Oxford University in England.

Ayer plans to study for a masters degree at Oxford and hopefully switch to doctorate status later.

The announcement was made in person in front of the 12 regional candidates. Four Rhodes Scholars from the New England area were chosen.

"After that, it's cycles of accepting it and not accepting it," Ayer said. "It's very hard to deal with the fact that the whole process is over."

"There was so much tension," Ayer said; the decision gave him a "great sense of relief."

Only 32 out of 1,041 American applicants were selected as Rhodes Scholars, according to The Boston Globe.

Ayer called a Renaissance Man'

Besides studying physics and linguistics, Ayer also juggles and rows heavyweight crew.

Ayer learned to juggle at 8, joined a juggling club at 10, and juggled for a New England circus for six years, he said. Ayer continues to juggle once a week for the MITJuggling Club.

Ayer also rows heavyweight crew at MIT and would like to row for the Oxford varsity boat team.

"He is in some sense, the ideal candidate," said Lecturer for the Experimental Study Group Peter A. Dourmashkin '76. Dourmashkin has often met Ayer through ESG and has as an informal adviser.

Ayer is "someone who has an interest in several fields simultaneously," fulfilling a Renaissance ideal, Dourmashkin said.

"He's a student who has really pronounced interests," said Writer-In-Residence Barbara Goldoftas. Goldoftas has taught Ayer in scientific writing classes.

Cooking is also one of Ayer's interests, Goldoftas said. In one class, Ayer "would bring a home-cooked lunch to class everyday, and everybody wanted to know what he cooked."

Student sets example

Many students ask,"Do I major in this? Do I major in that? You can say, look at Toby. He sets a good example," Dourmashkin said. "For people with a variety of interests, they have to pursue them."

In addition to his talents, Ayer is extremely modest and thoughtful, Dourmashkin said.

"I think he deserved to win," Goldoftas said.

At the same time, "every time you try to label him, he surprises you," Dourmashkin said. Dourmashkin was astonished when Ayer first told him about his involvement with the circus.

Ayer encourages students to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship. "If people are interested, people should definitely do it," Ayer said. There are "people who are qualified who don't know it."

To be eligible for the scholarship, applicants must be under 24 years of age. Applicants apply through their home state, and approximately 10 to 12 people are selected for an interview.

Two state representatives are chosen to advance to the regional level, which consist of six or seven states. Finally, four Rhodes Scholars are chosen.