Fitzroy “Pablo” Wickham ’21 has been named the Jamaica 2021 Rhodes Scholar.
The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest, and one of the most prestigious, international scholarship programs in the world. Each year, it provides about 100 fully-funded scholarships to students around the world for post-graduate study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. According to the website, the “Rhodes Selection Committees are looking for young people of outstanding intellect, character, leadership, and commitment to service.”
At Wesleyan, Wickham is a double major in theater and neuroscience and behavior. At the University of Oxford under the Rhodes Scholarship, he plans to pursue an MPhil and DPhil in neuroscience. Later, he plans to attend medical school and ultimately hopes to establish his own neuroscience research laboratory and practice in Jamaica.
Wickham’s selection as the Jamaica Rhodes Scholar was announced by Jamaica’s Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen, on Nov. 22.
Wickham grew up in a single-parent household in the Jamaican countryside, on the northern part of the island in the parish of St. Ann. He and his sister were raised by their mother, Florence Wickham, a high school mathematics teacher. Wickham notes that St. Ann is birthplace to such acclaimed talent as world-renowned musician Bob Marley; political activist Marcus Garvey; and father of the U.S. Vice President-elect, Donald Harris (Kamala Harris reportedly spent her summers there), yet “remains very underdeveloped and rural, boasting a rich agricultural history.”
After completing fifth and sixth grade in North Carolina, Wickham longed to return to the United States for college. He chose to attend a small liberal arts school given his interest in both neuroscience and theater, and said Wesleyan’s generous financial aid package made it possible for him to afford college in the U.S.
“My love for science dates back to as early as six years old and I decided then to become a doctor,” he recalls. “At 10, I learned about Dr. Charles Drew, a famous black cardiologist who made extensive contributions to blood banks, and I made up my mind to become a cardiologist since I figured the heart was the most important human organ. However, upon learning more about human anatomy, I settled on the brain being the most impressive creation and made up my mind to become a neurosurgeon. My mother then bought me all of Ben Carson’s books which further piqued my interest. When my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease a couple years ago, I was further convinced to continue my studies in the field.”
Wickham says he always dreamed of studying at some of the world’s best universities, and applied for the Rhodes Scholarship because he believed he met all four tenets emphasized by the institution: academic achievement, use of talents to the fullest, strong moral character, and leadership. He also remembered his high school principal, Raymon Treasure, telling the students at York Castle High School that Jamaica’s first Rhodes Scholar was a Yorkist.
Eleanor Brown, a professor of law at the Pennsylvania State University, a member of the Rhodes Scholarship selection committee, and a Rhodes Scholar herself, called Wickham’s story “remarkable,” noting his humble roots and the rarity of Black men studying neuroscience in the United States. On Wickham’s talent for musical theater, she said, “there were clear echoes of Hamilton and the brilliance of another Wesleyan alumnus, Lin-Manuel Miranda [’02, Hon.’15].”
“The implications for diversity and inclusion generally and specifically recruiting more Black applicants into the Rhodes pipeline are clear,” she said. “Thank God for trajectories like this to inspire us in an unimaginably difficult year.”
View stories on other recent Wesleyan Rhodes Scholars here.