Greater Tulsa Reporter
University of Tulsa senior cross country and track and field student-athlete Kirk Smith has been awarded a 2017 Rhodes Scholarship, making him one of only 32 recipients in the nation. Smith is TU’s first Rhodes Scholar since 1988, when another TU track and field student-athlete, Peter Bednekoff, was awarded the same prestigious honor.
While his team was finishing in 11th place at the NCAA Cross Country Championships recently, Smith was in the midst of two days of interviews for the Rhodes Scholar award. Smith is a captain on the Tulsa cross-country team and in track and field runs the steeplechase, 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter for the Golden Hurricane.
Rhodes finalists are selected for their outstanding scholarly achievements, character, commitment to others and potential career leadership. Rhodes Scholars receive two years of full financial support to pursue a degree at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
“This is an outstanding honor for Kirk, our university and the athletic program. Kirk has been able to successfully compete for our cross country and track and field teams, and still be in a position academically to win such an acclaimed award that only recognizes 31 other recipients nationally,” said Vice President and Director of Athletics Derrick Gragg. “This recognition epitomizes the dedication and hard work of Kirk in the classroom that we want all of our student-athlete to strive to achieve.”
A St. Louis, Missouri, native, Smith is a TU Presidential Scholar, an inaugural member of TU’s Global Scholars program and a National Merit Scholar. At Oxford, he plans to pursue a doctorate in engineering science.
“This is a great honor not only for Kirk and the university, but for our track and field program as well. I think it shows the type of student-athlete we try to bring into our program,” said Tulsa Cross Country and Track and Field Coach Steve Gulley. “Kirk is a great leader and leads by example. He has worked hard all four years, and I think his work ethic speaks the most about him.”
“You get everything Kirk has – 110 percent – and I think it shows, not only academically, but athletically too. Through the recruiting process it was very obvious that Kirk was very organized academically and was really committed to pursuing engineering as his academic major,” added Gulley. “The university’s reputation in engineering made it easier to get him to join our track program.”
The University of Tulsa students and alumni have won more nationally competitive awards than all other Oklahoma colleges combined. Sixty-one percent of Tulsa’s student-athletes last year maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above, while 14 of Tulsa’s 17 intercollegiate sports teams had a cumulative 3.0 GPA or better.
Since May, Tulsa student-athletes have now won three prestigious national awards, including soccer student-athlete Katie Riojas receiving the 2016 NCAA Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship award, and women’s rower Emalia Seto earning the NCAA’s 2016 Jim McKay Scholarship.