Eco-friendly student sees Rhodes’ aspirations in scholarship

Onwards and upwards: Rhodes-Scholar elect Angie Darby at an Olympic qualification event in Japan 2007.

A bust of Cecil Rhodes. Flickr/The Reith Lectures.
A Melbourne University architecture graduate interested in sustainable development and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels has bagged a 2012 Australia at Large Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford. Angie Darby, 24, from Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula, also represented Australia in pentathlon (shooting, horse jumping, fencing, swimming, and cross country running) at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Darby plans to enroll in a Masters in Environmental Change and Management at Oxford. Asked about the irony of her Oxford opportunity being funded by the monumental wealth raked in by the British conquistador of mining, Cecil Rhodes, Darby said, “Oh, tell me about it.” The scholar said she discussed this with fellow candidates, and they concluded “definitely, the scholarship represented Rhodes’ aspirations as opposed to the person he was,” Darby said.

“He was quite a savvy businessman and very aware of what he was doing,” Darby said about the British imperialist who co-founded of De Beers and founder of the British South Africa Company, which colonised Matabeleland and Zambesia – lands that later formed components of the British colonies that eventually comprised Rhodesia. Rhodes is credited with helping spark both the second Boer War and the Matabeleland Rebellion, in which tens of thousands of people died, and cemented British rule in Rhodesia. “I read that he said, ‘Philanthropy is good but philanthropy at 5% is even better,’” Darby said.

Rhodes Scholarships are only open to scholars aged from 18 to 25, so Darby has made it in her last eligible year. Applying for one had long been of interest in her family, however. “As a kid I grew up with my parents having a couple friends who were Rhodes Scholars, and so my parents recognised how important a scholarship it was,” she said. “I never thought I’d be of the quality to even apply, but I reached the age limit … to apply so I said, ‘You can only put your hat in the ring and they can only say no.’”

Darby starts at Oxford in September 2012.