West Point Cadet Daine Van de Wall, the son of immigrants from the Netherlands and "First Captain" of the Corps of Cadets, has been chosen for a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford.
Last year, two members of the Air Force Academy were selected as Rhodes Scholars. But Van de Wall, who intends to become an infantry officer, was the only one from a service academy to be chosen for the coveted award earlier this month.
"Service means a lot to me, specifically having parents who are immigrants coming over here and just being welcomed into the United States of America," Van de Wall, a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, said in an academy news release.
"My parents had the privilege to become naturalized citizens here a few years ago. Now, what it means to me to serve is really just to give back and have the opportunity to thank America for everything it's done for me," he added.
Van de Wall, of West Friendship, Maryland, was among nearly half of this year's 32 recipients of Rhodes Scholarships who are first-generation Americans, according to the Rhodes Trust.
For the third consecutive year, the majority of the recipients were minorities, and for the first time those selected included a transgender woman.
This year's recipients "once again reflect the extraordinary diversity that characterizes and strengthens the United States," Elliot F. Gerson, American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, said in a statement. "They will go to Oxford in September 2020 to study in fields broadly across the social, biological and physical sciences, and in the humanities."
The Rhodes Trust pays all college and university fees, and provides a stipend to cover expenses while in residence in Oxford.
The scholarships were created in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, the controversial diamond mine magnate and British imperialist who was prime minister of the Cape Colony in southern Africa in the 1890s.
Van de Wall, a systems and decisions science major, said he intends to pursue a Master of Philosophy in international relations at Oxford.
As first captain and brigade commander for 4,400 cadets, Van de Wall will have the honor of leading the Corps of Cadets onto the field Dec. 14 at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field for the 120th Army-Navy football game.
"The role of the First Captain is to lead the course," Van de Wall said in the academy release. "I'm ultimately responsible for the performance of the Corps of Cadets. My job is to come up with the objectives we're trying to reach and come up with a vision for how we're going to get there."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.