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Local kids follow Fringe path to Rhodes scholarships

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What do Bill Clinton, Kris Kristofferson and Thomas Toles have in common ?


They are all recipients of Rhodes scholarships.


This prestigious academic award is granted annually to some of the world’s brightest scholars and local student Toles was awarded one at the end of November.


The scholarship was set up by Cecil Rhodes in 1902 when provisions in his will provided a substantial fund to allow for some of the world’s keenest minds to further their studies at Oxford University.


 Thomas, the son of University of Manitoba film professor George Toles and author Melissa Steele, grew up and lives on Jessie Avenue and graduated from Grant Park High School before going to the U of M, where he is currently in his fourth year of a double honours BA in English and psychology.  


The Rhodes is not the only scholarship Toles has won. He’s also earned an Isbister scholarship in arts, an Aikins scholarship in literature and the Victor Cowie scholarship in performing arts.


Thomas has acted numerous roles with the Black Hole Theatre Group, and has also directed the company. He’s performed at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival and Orphans, which he co-directed, was chosen by CBC Manitoba as its favourite local production of the 2012 festival.

He’s even had a role in Guy Maddin’s Hauntings.


Toles’ next thespian endeavour will be in the Black Hole’s production of The Cripple of Inishmaan, which runs from Jan. 15–26 in the University College building on the U of M’s Fort Garry campus.


He expects to commence his scholarship next September, when he takes up residence in Oxford, where he plans to further his studies in both English and film aesthetics.


Asked the reason for his academic success, Thomas told me it’s due to a combination of a strong family support group and good time management skills, which have allowed him to commit equally to his academic studies, his love of theatre and his friends and social circle.
Only three Rhodes scholarships were awarded to the Canadian prairie region this year, and Toles was the only Manitoba recipient.


Nevertheless, Toles is not Winnipeg’s only Rhodes Scholar.


Tara Paterson was awarded the Rhodes designated for British Columbia. Though she has elected to study at the University of Victoria, Tara is a Winnipeg girl, the daughter of long time RMTC director Robb Paterson and his wife Heather.


Like Toles, Paterson loves theatre and she’s also performed at the Winnipeg Fringe as well. Her one woman play, Dying to Be Thin, garnered rave reviews a few years ago.


As they head off to Oxford, Toles and Paterson will be following in the footsteps of world leaders and will no doubt rub shoulders with leaders of the future.


It’s a great opportunity at what must be a very exciting stage of their lives.


Maybe the secret to winning a Rhodes scholarship is that you have to excel at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival first.

Trevor Smith is a community correspondent for River Heights. You can contact him via email at smitht@mymts.net.

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