Two graduates of the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Sciences recently received two of the nation’s most prestigious graduate awards. Elvin N. Erihami (’19, Paul L. Dunbar HS) is a Rhodes Scholarship and Samuel C. Kessler (’18, Campbellsville HS) is a George J. Mitchell Scholarship.
Irihami is a final year student at Indiana University where he received the Hermann B. Wells Scholarship. Majoring in neuroscience, he co-founded and chairs a charity, the Eckford Mentorship Program, using industry and academic partnerships to bring black, Latino, and Native American talent into the workforce. He is also active in creating start-up circles that help residents of nursing homes. Irihami was a student advisor to the president of Indiana University and the university’s vice president for undergraduate education. He is the co-author of three scientific publications in peer-reviewed publications, including Nature and cells related to cancer chemotherapy. Irihamye plans to pursue an MSc in Translational Health Sciences and an MSc in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation at Oxford. This year’s Rhodes Scholar class of 32 students from the United States was selected from among 826 candidates endorsed by 247 different colleges. The most prestigious international scholarship for graduate students of American universities, this award was established in 1903 by the final will and bequest of Cecil John Rhodes, with the first class of scholars beginning their studies at Oxford in 1904. Students from all over the world competed for the 102 scholarships awarded. annually. Irihami will begin his studies at Oxford University next October, joining scholarship holders from more than 60 other countries.
Kessler is a final year student at the University of Louisville where he was a Grawemeyer Scholar. He will earn a BA in Applied Geography and a BA in Individual Study of Public Policy and Environmental Mitigation. Kessler was announced as one of 12 members of the American-Irish coalition of George J. Mitchell Scholar of the Year 2023. One of the country’s most prestigious scholarship programs, it sends future American leaders to the island of Ireland for a year of graduate study. Kessler has been recognized for developments in water sampling with the KY Institute for Environment and Sustainable Development and holds a patent pending with the USGS. He co-founded UofL’s first peer-reviewed journal for student research and founded the Commonwealth Policy Alliance, a non-profit think tank that connects university knowledge with legislative partners to develop solutions. With its work on the environmental economics of Kentucky’s bourbon industry, the think tank has drafted a bill ready for presentation in the state legislature. Kessler is Congressman Hal Rogers Scholar, and an admissions specialist with the Kentucky Resource Council. He sees promise for renewable biogas energy in Kentucky from static bourbon waste — the same thing found in Irish whiskey production. Commissioned by the University’s Dean to serve the Sustainability Council, he is one of two student authors of the UofL Climate Action Plan and coordinated negotiations to transition the campus to renewable biogas energy using local methane sources and extracted biotechnology for value from UofL’s Kohn Center for Renewable Energy. Kessler investigated this technology with CONN Center scientists and developed a proposal to use algae as a bio-renewable, low-carbon alternative to coal or peat, which might generate revenue from growing algae and maintaining carbon-sink swamps like those in Ireland. He will study public policy at University College Dublin.
Kessler says, “Mitchell is among the best in the world, and I am very humbled to receive him from the US-Irish alliance. Beginning with Gatton with the Gatton Research Internship, it is a clear sign that my research experiences and policy projects have been on the right track. I thank God and my family’s support Along the way, as well as those in Kentucky who facilitated my experience after Gatton.All Mitchell Scholars are visionaries with amazing experiences of their own, and I am honored to be among them.As a scholar at Mitchell University, I also look forward to sending some friendly mutual regards across the Irish Sea to my friend Elvin Irihamye, a graduate of Gatton Alum and now a Rhodes scholar at Oxford.”
About Gatton Academy Founded in 2007, Gatton Academy is Kentucky’s first two-year residential program for the gifted, talented, and high-achieving young and old. Gatton Academy students apply as high school sophomores, enroll as juniors, and are full-time WKU students pursuing interests in advanced STEM fields.