Fil-Am West Point Cadet Receives Prestigious 2021 Rhodes Scholarship

Cadet Tyrese Bender

by Elpidio R. Estioko

As we approach 2021, the new year has many surprises to us Filipino-Americans!

Recently, a fraternity brother living in Hawaii informed me that a West Point Filipino American cadet of class 2021 was awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship! He was one of two recipients of the much-coveted scholarship.

Jun Gappe, president of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association of Hawaii (UPAA-Hawaii) and a member of the UP-Mother Chapter of the Beta Rho Omega Fraternity, informed me with this text:

“The other Filipino connection is a West Point cadet, class of 2021 who recently was awarded the much-coveted Rhodes Scholarship! He was raised by a single mom from the Philippines. The mom herself was an ex-soldier. Tyrese Bender is the name!”

When he said, “the other Filipino connection…” he was referring to the first Filipino-connection whom we reported earlier in HFC, Cadet Eurica Shane Diego, born in Baguio City who immigrated to Hawaii with her Filipina mother Sheleah Watson at the age of seven.

She graduated from West Point on December 18, 2020 and was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant aboard Airforce 2 lately, together with her fiancée (now her husband) Hunter Daniels, West Point class of 2019, who likewise was promoted to 1st Lieutenant. They were married a day after the commissioning. Eurica Shane Diego is Gappe’s niece. According to West Point’s Public Affairs Office, Cadets Tyrese Bender, Class of 2021, of San Antonio, Texas and Cadet Evan Walker, Class of 2021, of Rowlett, Texas were among the 32 U.S. Rhodes Scholarship awardees named Saturday.

“Cadets Tyrese Bender and Evan Walker have both found creative and bold ways to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion through their leadership and studies at West Point. I look forward to the change and growth they will lead as Rhodes Scholars for the U.S. Army, our nation, and the world,” said Brig. Gen. Cindy Jebb, Dean of the Academic Board.

“Their achievements and this prestigious recognition are testaments to their hard work, empathy, and intellectual curiosity, and to the strength of the West Point community that supported their endeavors each step of the way.”

An engineering management major, Bender is the deputy brigade commander, a two-year track team captain and contributor to the inaugural U.S. Corps of Cadets Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategy. 

Bender, while in Oxford, intends to earn a Master of Philosophy in Sociology and Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation.

On a CBS interview when asked who he learned his work ethics Tyrese said: “Definitely my mom, a single parent from the Philippines and who joined the military herself…”

Walker, on the other hand, is an operations research major, the 2nd regimental commander, and is a two-year captain of the Army Boxing Team. 

While at Oxford, the Public Affairs Office reported that she intends to earn a Master of Comparative Social Policy with a focus on the intersection between policy and inequalities in the workplace and their influence on social inclusion and mobility for racial and gender minorities.

For the benefit of the readers, Rhodes Scholars are chosen not only for their outstanding scholarly achievements, but for their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead. The Rhodes Trust, a British charity established to honor the will and bequest of Cecil J. Rhodes, provides full financial support for Rhodes Scholars to pursue a degree or degrees at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom in partnership with the Second Century Founder, John McCall MacBain and other generous benefactors.

The U. S. Military Academy at West Point is a four-year, co-educational, federal, liberal arts college located 50 miles north of New York City. It was founded in 1802 as America’s first college of engineering and continues today as the world’s premier leader-development institutions, consistently ranked among top colleges in the country. Its mission remains constant—to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the nation as an officer in the U. S. Army. For more information, go to www.westpoint.edu.  

Yes of course, the New Year is full of surprises and FilAms West Point 2nd Lt. Eurica Shane Diego and Cadet Tyrese Bender are just one of them! The New year will bring us more hope for a better tomorrow, so let us welcome the New Year with full of hope and enthusiasm!

ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO 
was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and an award-winning journalist in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author @ estiokoelpidio@gmail.com.


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