May 24, 2004

No debate: Rithmire’s work and service net $20K McMullan honor


By Beverly Clark

Service, leadership and academic rigor defined the college career of Meg Elizabeth Rithmire. Her dedication and hard work did not go unnoticed by the University, which gave Rithmire the 2004 McMullan Award, complete with $20,000, no strings attached.
The Lucius Lamar McMullan Award, endowed by alumnus William Matheson in honor of his uncle, is given to a graduating senior who exhibits “outstanding citizenship, exceptional leadership and potential for service to his or her community, the nation and the world.” The award’s intention is to allow a student to do something he or she wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.

Besides receiving the McMullan Award at Commence-ment, Rithmire also earned dual degrees: a bachelor’s in Chinese studies and international studies, and a master’s in political science. The Phi Beta Kappa scholar, who also made the dean’s list every semester, accrued an impressive academic record while working 40 hours a week as a restaurant server during most of her college career, plus volunteering on- and off-campus.

“I am truly humbled to receive this award,” she said. “I deeply appreciate not only the money, but the honor as well. Emory has been an outstanding and supportive community.”

Rithmire served as president of Young Democrats this past year, and on the Emory College Honor Council. She also served as a volunteer judge for the Barkley Forum, Emory’s renowned debate program. She plans to donate part of her award to help a high school student attend the Emory National Debate Institute this summer. “Debate made a huge difference in my life in high school, and I want to give a young student the opportunity to experience it,” she said.

A Goodrich C. White Scholar for the past three years, she is a member of Phi Sigma Iota national language honor society and Pi Sigma Alpha political science honor society. She also received the 2004 Eliot Levitas Award as the best all-around political science graduate at Emory.

Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Rithmire studied and conducted research in China three times. Through the Institute for Comparative and International Studies, she received a grant and did independent field work in Beijing and surrounding areas last fall. She spent fall 2002 in a study abroad program where she took intensive language courses and taught English to elementary school students. She also spent the summer of 2001 at Shaanxi Normal University in China.

Next year Rithmire will attend Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where she has received the Karl Deutsch Prize Fellowship to begin work on a doctorate in politics and government.

During her time at Emory, Rithmire served as an academic tutor with Volunteer Emory at the Newcomer’s Network Refugee School in Clarkston and as an Emory READ volunteer tutor. As a member of the University’s Foreign Policy Exchange executive board, she led student discussions on the war in Iraq and helped coordinate and spoke at the Universitywide Classroom on the Quad events in 2003 and 2004.