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Class of 2018: Literary Detective Heads to Oxford as Rhodes Scholar

The prestigious scholarship provides all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England

Part of the Class of 2018: Senior Stories of Discovery, Learning and Serving Series
Gabrielle Stewart was named a 2018 Rhodes Scholar.
2018 Rhodes Scholar Gabrielle Stewart did remarkable detective work on centuries-old items in the Rubenstein Library special collections.

Gabrielle (Gabi) Stewart, a Duke University senior from San Dimas, California, was among the 32 recipients selected this weekend for prestigious Rhodes Scholarships.

She was chosen from among 866 applicants at 299 colleges and universities throughout the country, and is the 46th student in Duke's history to receive a Rhodes Scholarship. The scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England.

Stewart is the recipient of a four-year, merit-based Benjamin N. Duke Scholarship, a member of Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society and one of three 2017 Faculty Scholars in the Duke senior class. The honor is bestowed by the Duke faculty on the basis of excellence in the classroom and in independent research.

“I want to congratulate Gabi on her well-deserved Rhodes Scholarship,” said Duke President Vincent E. Price. “In her time at Duke, she has demonstrated great leadership both on campus and off through her social justice work and her research on ancient Greece. She is very well qualified to join the long line of distinguished Duke graduates who have been awarded Rhodes Scholarships, and I look forward to seeing where her career takes her from Oxford.”

In both her scholarship and her research, Stewart is interested in shining a light on people -- modern and historical -- whose voices have been lost or forgotten.

The child of a Christian radio host, Stewart spent her childhood being homeschooled in the U.S. and Australia and moving very frequently -- 60 times in all. She entered public school in California for the first time in 8th grade.

A classical languages major and history minor, her research interests include early modern manuscripts and papyrology, the study of ancient literature written on papyrus. While at Duke, she spotted an autograph book of a Saxon university student in the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library that helped shed light on late 17th-century student culture, and caused the library to change its classification of the work.

At Oxford, Stewart plans to deepen her knowledge of Greek social history and to continue her study of the Greek language.

Stewart is also active on behalf of modern-day people who sometimes slip through the cracks. She is a founding member of the Duke Coalition for Alleviating Poverty and president of the Community Empowerment Fund. The fund -- a student-driven local nonprofit -- provides financial coaching to people in shelters and transitional housing with the aim of helping them achieve financial stability.

“I am beyond honored to have been named a Rhodes Scholar,” Stewart said late Saturday night. “I cannot articulate how thankful I am for everyone who made this possible: my family, friends, professors, mentors, fellowship advisors, and the amazing people I met from District 16. I'm so delighted that I have the opportunity to cultivate the knowledge and experience to ‘fight the world's fight’ at Oxford."

Rhodes Scholarships were created in 1902 by the will of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes. Recipients are selected on the basis of high academic achievement, personal integrity, leadership potential and a commitment to service, among other attributes.

The value of the Rhodes Scholarship varies depending on the academic field, and the degree (B.A., master's, doctoral) chosen. The Rhodes Trust pays all college and university fees, provides a stipend to cover necessary expenses while in residence in Oxford and during vacations, and transportation to and from England.

A complete list of this year's recipients is online at