W&L senior named a Rhodes Scholar for 2017

Paqui Toscano, ‘16, becomes 16th recipient of the prestigious award in university’s history


Paqui Toscano, ‘16, a recently named Rhodes Scholar. Photo courtesy of W&L

Abigail Summerville

Paqui Toscano, ‘16, was one of 32 U.S. students awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship this year.

Toscano, an English and Classics double major, is Washington and Lee’s 16th student to receive the scholarship, which grants him the opportunity to receive further education at the University of Oxford in England. The scholarships are granted to two students from 16 regional districts across the United States.

Toscano said he started to strategize about scholarships and fellowships at the end of last year. He said he chose to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship in particular because he saw it as the best opportunity for him to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming a professor. At Oxford, he said he’d like to enhance his knowledge of English and classical literature.

Toscano was a finalist in District 10, which includes his hometown of Kettering, Ohio. At a reception for the district finalists on Saturday, Nov. 19, Toscano said he was the most shocked he’s been in his life as the two names of the winners – including his own – were read aloud.

“You prepare for the application, but not to win,” said Toscano.

And the application process required much preparation.

He described the process as “difficult” and “rigorous,” but was grateful for the help from the W&L faculty. He praised Professors Howard Pickett and Robert Strong, the former and current UK fellowships coordinators. He also credited his major advisors for helping him through the application process.

“It takes a village to raise a fellowship applicant,” he said.

Though Toscano’s grades and accomplishments from his time at W&L were exemplary, he said he believes that his lively personality and enthusiasm shone through during the interview stage, which helped him stand out.

“At the finalist stage, it’s not so much about intelligence, but about passion and the ability to engage with and empower others,” said Toscano. “My ability to connect with the judges … gave me an edge.”

Those qualities were recognized by the W&L faculty last May when Toscano was named a recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallion, an award given to the senior man and woman who excel “in high ideals in living, in fine spiritual qualities, and in generous and unselfish service to others.”

Though Toscano was a member of the class of 2016, he has been concluding his studies at W&L during the fall of 2016 due to an accident in the summer following his first year that caused an injury to his spinal cord, which caused him to take a semester- long leave of absence.

The injury did not stop Toscano, a Johnson Scholar, from being involved on campus with the Student Judicial Council, Omicron Delta Kappa and other organizations.

During his first year at Oxford, Toscano said he will study renaissance-era English literature, and classical language and literature during the second. Toscano has never been to England before, but said he is excited for this adventure in a new country full of rich history.

Prior to Toscano’s recent win, the most recent Rhodes Scholar from W&L was Patricia Lopes in 1991.