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 Article of Interest - Student Honors

WA Two State Students Get Rhodes Honors

from The Seattle Times, by Jason Margolis
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Cyrus Habib a Columbia University senior from Kirkland and a Georgetown University graduate from Spokane will go to Oxford.


Two college students from Washington were selected for the centennial class of Rhodes scholars. Cyrus Habib of Kirkland, who attends Columbia University, and Anthony House from Spokane, a Georgetown University graduate, will join 30 other Americans next fall at Oxford University in England. Habib, 21, studies English, comparative literature and Mideast studies as an undergraduate senior, but in his spare time dabbles in computer programming and has designed a program to convert text applications to speech using the Linux operating system. He is a published photographer, studies martial arts and is a downhill skier. And he's blind.


Habib, the son of Mo Habib and Susan Amini, was diagnosed with retinal blastoma, a cancer of the eye, at the age of 9. He was treated with chemotherapy and radiation, and his retinas were removed to excise the tumors. Born in Maryland but raised in Bellevue after he was 9, Habib attended the International School from the sixth through the 12th grades. He said being a disabled student at a public school was a struggle, especially fighting for supplies to accommodate his blindness.


Learning from that frustrating experience, Habib said he has fought to improve the quality of education for students with disabilities. Besides designing a free computer program to help blind students work on computers, Habib is the president of the campus group "Columbians Organized for Disability Advocacy." Habib also uses his artistry to help present a voice for the blind. As a photographer, he recently was commissioned by the Princeton Architectural Press to take photos of New York City. "The photos were taken walking around different neighborhoods, based on my experiences of the city, looking at how we imagine visually without using the eyes," he said yesterday.


Habib hasn't picked his exact course of study for Oxford yet; he just learned of his award on Saturday. But he would like to use the coveted scholarship to study comparative literature, English and Middle Eastern texts. "By virtue of Britain's relationship with the Mideast and Africa, Oxford has a wealth of resources on Middle East culture and literature."


Besides the actual words, Habib says he wants to continue his academic focus on the way we learn "with our sense of visuals versus auditory versus tactile." After the two-year stint in England, Habib plans to return to the U.S. and attend law school. Habib has worked for lawyer-turned-senator Hillary Clinton, the wife of another famous Rhodes scholar. Spokane's House, who turns 22 tomorrow, earned  Georgetown's highest award in history as a graduating senior and an award for his community service.


He is now working with the homeless in Portland and plans to earn a master's in economics and social history at Oxford.


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