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12/08/92

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Two Stanford students named Rhodes Scholars for 1993

STANFORD -- Two Stanford University students - Erez Kalir, a Phi Beta Kappa scholar who combines interests in the humanities and sciences, and Fayyaz Nurmohamed, a history honors student who has done extensive volunteer work with Muslim youth groups - have been named Rhodes Scholars for 1993.

Kalir, a senior majoring in English and biology, is among the 32 American students chosen for the honor, which provides fees and living expenses for two years of study at Oxford University in England.

Nurmohamed, a senior from Richmond, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver, was chosen as one of Canada's 11 Rhodes Scholars.

Kalir, 20, was born in Israel and moved with his family to the United States when he was 5. His home town is Berkeley. Nurmohamed, 21, was born in Kenya and immigrated with his family to Canada when he was 2.

Kalir spent two quarters last year at Stanford's program in Oxford. The experience, he said, was the highlight of his Stanford education and sparked his interest in applying for a Rhodes scholarship.

At Oxford, he said, he was able to follow his interests in science and literature. "I worked in a genetics lab at the same time I was doing research in the Bodleian Library."

As a Rhodes Scholar, he plans to continue his interdisciplinary approach, studying the way language expresses hardship, from both a literary and a biological perspective.

Kalir is writing an English honors thesis on the efforts of two poets, Paul Celan and Dan Pagis, "to destabilize and subvert mythical reconstructions of the Holocaust ingrained in their societies' collective memories." Last spring and summer, with the help of a grant from Stanford, he traveled to Berlin, Auschwitz and Jerusalem to do research for the thesis.

Kalir said he owes a lot to his professors, in particular to English professors John Felstiner, his thesis adviser; Shirley Brice Heath; and Marjorie Perloff.

Kalir plans a career as a professor, and in addition to teaching would like to work on making connections between universities and the public school system.

He has seen the need for such connections, he said, during his volunteer work as teacher of debate and poetry at Logan High School in Union City. Two years ago, he received a grant from the Stanford Humanities Center to teach a summer course in ethnic poetry at Logan.

That summer, he said, brought him into contact with students "who face violence, poverty and emotional deprivation in their everyday lives. My challenge was to make links between what we did in class and their lives. I feel I learned more from that experience than I taught the kids."

In addition to having taught debate at Logan since he was a freshman, Kalir is an officer of the Stanford Debate Society.

Nurmohamed said that one of the formative experiences of his life was his selection to attend, on full scholarship, United World College of the Adriatic in Trieste, Italy. He went to Trieste after his junior year in high school, and spent two years there with 200 students from more than 70 countries. Among the internationally diverse group in Trieste, he said, "I was challenged to take responsibility for my ideas, convictions and values."

At Oxford, Nurmohamed plans to study Islamic/Middle Eastern history. After that, he foresees more graduate work in history and a career in university teaching, although, he said, he has not ruled out law school.

At Stanford, Nurmohamed is doing an honors history thesis on aspects of modern Ismaili history. The Ismaili are a branch of Shia Muslims. He has worked closely with his thesis adviser, history associate professor Joel Beinin, who specializes in the Middle East.

Nurmohamed's volunteer work also focuses on the Ismaili community. He is a member of the Shia Ismaili Youth and Sports Committee for Northern California and for the past eight years has been a member of the Aga Khan Volunteer Corps in Vancouver, where his responsibilities have included caring for elder members of the Ismaili community and planning and initiating fund-raising activities.

At Stanford, Nurmohamed has been an advising associate for freshmen and a writing tutor. He is also a member of the newly formed Stanford Middle East Focus Group.

Kalir and Nurmohamed are Stanford's 69th and 70th Rhodes Scholars.

Rhodes scholarships were established in 1902 by the estate of Cecil Rhodes, the British colonialist and philanthropist, who hoped that the scholarships would contribute to world understanding and peace.

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