ROCK STARKentucky’s latest Rhodes Scholar Monica Marks
is a shining example of UofL’s vigorous outreach into the state
This past November, Monica Marks was driving south through Also, her family’s religious beliefs discourage pursuit of a col-
the flat, seemingly endless farmland along Interstate 65 from lege degree.
Indianapolis back to Louisville. The 2009 University of Louis-
“I was a first-generation college student from an underedu-
ville graduate had been selected to receive the Rhodes Schol-
cated part of our state and our country, growing up in a
arship and an information packet titled “2010 Rhodes Scholar
religious fundamentalist environment,” Marks says. “So there
Elect Materials” sat on the passenger seat.
were different factors that you could say were working
Oxford University, England “I kept on glancing over at this thing thinking, ‘Is this me?’ ”
Marks recalls, with a laugh.
“But at the same time, I had a lot of support from my father
UofL President James Ramsey was calling Marks “our rock and from my teachers and mentors within the community.”
star” long before her remarkable selection as one of this year’s
Jesse Marks went against his church’s teachings and supplied
32 winners of a Rhodes Scholarship, the oldest and most
his inquisitive daughter with plenty of books.
prestigious award in academia. She is the fourth UofL gradu-
ate and the school’s first female Rhodes recipient, according “My father and I always had an amazing relationship with
to the scholarship’s website. mutual support,” she says. “And I think it really speaks to the
parent’s role of directly, hands-on raising their children to be
Judges selected Marks after a final round of interviews Nov.
defined by opportunities and positive prospects rather than
21 in Indianapolis. One of those judges credited Marks with
by fears. Parents have a choice to let their children leave and
giving the best interview she had seen in her years of rating
study abroad and read many different books and engage all
different sorts of ideas and really think open-mindedly.”
Why is her selection remarkable?
When she graduated from Russell Independent High School
Marks grew up in Rush, Ky.—a small town near Ashland—and in 2004, Marks wanted to go to the University of Chicago,
came to UofL from a humble family background. Her father, Columbia University or NYU but couldn’t afford any of those
Jesse Marks, owns a small business that sells janitorial prod- schools. UofL, which offered her a generous financial pack-
ucts. Neither parent graduated from high school. age, was her “back up plan.”
“College wasn’t assumed as it is in many families [where the Plan B worked out pretty well.
idea is], ‘Well, of course, you’re going to college!’ ” Marks
“The University of Louisville blew all of my expectations out
says. “That wasn’t the discussion in my family. It was whether
of the water,” Marks says. “The friends I’ve made, the profes-
or not you are going to college.”
sors who’ve mentored me, the personal attention, the support
12 n W W W. L O U I S V I L L E . E D U UOFL MAGAZINE n 13
system—it was the best decision I ever
At UofL Marks blazed new trails. While “We live in a new world and a new economy and the jobs of Remmel gave a presentation on her stroke research and her
pursuing her undergraduate degree, today are very different than the jobs of yesterday,” he said. work with the state on stroke awareness.
she traveled the world, mastered new
languages, founded and coached the Ramsey used an example from his childhood in Fern Creek In all, Ramsey says, the tour was an opportunity for UofL to
university’s Intercollegiate Quiz Bowl to hit home the point. get out in the state and talk what is happening at the univer-
Team and won highly coveted awards sity, how it is having a positive impact on Kentucky and how
“When I was young, a major corporation came to our area,
and scholarships, including a Fulbright, students ready to take the next step can be a part of it.
our neighborhood,” he said, “a company called General
a Critical Language Scholarship from Electric. And General Electric opened Appliance Park near “We think we have a great educational experience,” Ramsey
the U.S. State Department and the where I lived. And I went to school with kids whose parents says. “We have a great community and great opportunities
Mary Churchill Humphrey Scholarship worked at Appliance Park, and I went to church with families for student learning beyond the classroom.”
from the UofL College of Arts and Sci- who were part of Appliance Park.
“In its heyday, General Electric employed 25,000 at their fa-
Marks graduated from UofL last May cility in Fern Creek. Today, that facility employs about 4,000.”
with a combined major in political sci-
ence, women’s and gender studies, Ramsey said the manufacturing jobs that have been so im-
and philosophy. portant to communities in Kentucky have gone to low wage
“It has been like a family,” she says of
UofL. “Every time I go back, it feels like “We’ve got to find new jobs,” he said. “And the jobs of the
UofL President James Ramsey and Dr. Kerrie Remmel chat with a group of advanced placement
I’m coming home in many ways. My future are going to require more technical skills and be more
students at Murray High School in Murray, Ky.
professors and mentors have become information sciences focused, medical focused and life sci-
some of my best friends, quite hon- ences focused.”
estly. I genuinely love a lot of them.”
Taking UofL on the Road Ramsey pointed to UPS as an example of how the job mar-
Marks pauses and sighs before she ket can change quickly. Ramsey uses UofL student Bradley Black’s T-shirt to show students at
continues: “There have been so many Murray High School the different stops he has made on the outreach
Monica Marks’ selection as a Rhodes Scholar came on the heels of UofL “The largest corporation in Kentucky today is the United
people at this university who have tour. Black is a graduate of the high school.
President James Ramsey’s latest foray out into the state—the 2009 outreach Parcel Service, and it’s in the logistics and distribution
stepped out for me without anything to
program—during which he brought UofL’s message to prospective students, industry—an industry that we didn’t even think about 20
gain from me. They have been gener-
parents, alumni and community leaders. years ago,” he said. “Today, UPS hires 25,000 people in
ous enough to recognize the potential
in me and do their part to make these Marks’ accomplishment “reaffirms UofL’s ability to recruit, retain and nurture the
Kentucky.” On Tour with Dr. Ramsey
dreams realities.” best students from across Kentucky,” Ramsey says. Ramsey also used the outreach tour to discuss the advan-
tages at UofL—its nationally recognized schools of business, n Sept. 23 — Nelson County and Bardstown high
Her Rhodes Scholarship will allow her Throughout the fall semester Ramsey, along with several UofL researchers and schools, Bardstown Rotary, Optimist and Kiwanis clubs,
engineering, education and medicine, its Top 100-ranked
to spend two years at the University of members of the admissions and alumni offices, set out on a 16-stop road trip and an alumni and student recruitment event in Lebanon
library system and other programs. He also stressed UofL’s
Oxford in England pursuing a master that included visits to some 10 high schools in the eastern, western and central
small class sizes, a vibrant student life and the chance to n Sept. 24 — Meade and Breckinridge county high
of philosophy degree in modern Middle parts of the state.
work with groundbreaking researchers. schools, alumni lunch in Owensboro, alumni event in
Eastern studies. She hopes someday
Ramsey spoke to several hundred juniors, seniors and advanced placement Madisonville
to help break down the barriers of mis- Throughout the tour, some of those researchers spoke
students at each school, telling them UofL is recruiting students based on qual-
understanding between Muslims and about their work to smaller groups of advanced placement n Sept. 30 — Murray and Graves county high schools,
ity instead of quantity.
other religions and cultures. students. For example, in Franklin and Shelby counties Paducah Rotary Club, alumni event in Paducah
“We want the very best students in Kentucky to realize that they can get a Dr. Jason Chesney discussed his groundbreaking cancer Oct. 1 — Admission outreach in Wilder
For now, however, Marks hopes that n
superb, quality education,” Ramsey says. “We know if the very best students research. High school students in Meade and Breckinridge
being a Rhodes Scholar will send a Oct. 23 — Counselors’ lunch, Cooper High School visit
in Kentucky feel like they have to leave Kentucky to get a quality education that counties got a firsthand demonstration of an artificial heart n
message to other young women from in Union, alumni event in Covington
the probability of them coming back and being part of our communities and when UofL heart surgeon Dr. Laman Gray joined Ramsey on
part of our workforce is greatly diminished.” the tour. Gray, who in 2001 implanted the first completely n Oct. 26 — Admissions outreach in Prestonsburg
“There are no excuses for staying put self-contained replacement heart in a human patient, talked
Speaking in a large auditorium packed with juniors at Graves County High about the future of medical devices that could replace failing n Nov. 6 — Ashland alumni event
and not performing,” she says. “Being
School on Sept. 30, Ramsey implored the students to continue their education human hearts. During the Western Kentucky stint, Dr. Kerri Dec. 3 — Louisville school visits
a first generation college student is not n
after high school.
an excuse. Poverty is not an excuse.
Religion is not an excuse.” n
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