8, 2001, Gazette)
All Rhodes lead
by Mary MacGillivray
Rhodes Scholarship winner Niall ODea with his parents Moiré
By Mary MacGillivray
This year, Memorial student Niall ODea has been awarded
the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. His parents, English professor
Shane ODea, and deputy registrar Moiré ODea,
are very proud of him. This spring, Niall will graduate with
an honours degree in biology as well as a bachelor of arts in
philosophy. After five years of hard work, he has a grade point
average of 3.0, and a lot to be proud of.
Niall already has his post-graduation schedule planned. In mid-May
he is off to St. Vincent and the Grenadines through the volunteer
organization Canadian Crossroads. Here he will volunteer for
four months, and hopes to be involved in an environmental development
In October, Niall will travel to England, where he will begin
his attendance at the University of Oxford. Interested in the
study of ecology and conservation, he is seeking a masters
of science in environmental change and management. His great-uncle
Fabian ODea, former Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland,
won the Rhodes Scholarship in 1939.
As one part of his application, Niall required six personal and
professional reference letters. He approached some of his past
and present professors, as well as personal references, to gather
support in his candidacy for the esteemed scholarship. Niall
was happy with the positive responses that he received.
Dr. John Scott and Dr. Peter Trnka of the Philosophy department,
as well as Dr. Dick Haedrich, Biology, and Bob Olivero, Fellow,
Channing Chair on Public Policy, supplied academic references
without reservation. Dr. Mary Courage, Psychology, and Bert Riggs,
archivist for the Centre for Newfoundland Studies, were each
pleased to supply personal references.
Dr. Haedrich, Biology, Nialls honours supervisor, is one
reason why Niall has become so interested in ecology. Niall said
that Dr. Haedrich has been a mentor to him in terms
of his undergraduate work in biology. He has also found that
Dr. Scott and Dr. Trnka of the philosophy department have been
When I really started to get excited about my some of my
philosophy courses, like my courses with Dr. Trnka and Dr. Scott,
is when analogies about the body and about things like action
really did come in close parallel with what I was already learning
Mr. and Mrs. ODea considered it important that each of
their three children attend Memorial, and this has been upheld.
Though he was offered a scholarship to another university, Niall
decided instead to stay in Newfoundland and says that he has
never regretted this decision. He appreciates the quality of
the education that he has received at Memorial and feels that
he has learned a lot here.
Intrigued by nature and learning since his childhood days, Niall
would go exploring and sometimes bring home funky looking bugs
in matchboxes for further examination. It would appear that today,
at the age of 22, he retains this quality of eager curiosity.
From day one my plan was always to do biology because as
a child I was really into nature, but I have always been really
interested in arts too, like going to painting classes and doing
sculpture and photography. My parents are both graduates of English
programs and we have always had a lot of reading in our house
so I have always been interested in that side of things.
Some of his favourite activities are music, (for example, he
has sung baritone in a choir for years), tennis on weekends with
his grandmother, and reading imaginative fiction. Niall says
that he has always been highly sociable, so getting out to talk
to people on weekends and just hanging out is very
important to him.
Nialls fateful Rhodes interview took place Dec. 18 at 10:30
a.m. Within the same day, the winner of the fellowship is decided
and notified. Niall was to get the call sometime after 6 p.m.
to learn of the results. As he had to leave early to perform
in a Christmas concert that night, his parents were there to
receive the news for him.
The choir was just finishing their first set of music. Niall
was walking down from the stage, when he spotted his parents
who had just arrived. From afar, Mr. ODea mouthed the words
you won to him. Niall was instantly baffled
and completely surprised. He turned to his friend
beside him and said, I think Ive just won the Rhodes
She passed it on, and soon the choir spokesperson was proudly
congratulating him and announcing his accomplishment to everyone
at the concert.
Hoping that he had understood his father correctly, Niall smiled.