Two hours after his interview as a Rhodes Scholar finalist, mechanical engineering master’s student David Moore and his fellow nominees were called into a room at a Chicago conference center. Out of a dozen people, only two would win the prestigious awards. It was finally time to find out who.
As he waited for the names, Moore imagined hearing his own. And then he did.
“When they first read it, I thought I was just hearing it in my head, but then someone reached over to shake my hand. I just could not believe it,” Moore said.
It’s rare for engineering students to even apply for Rhodes Scholarships, but on Nov. 22, Moore became one of just 32 Americans to be named among the 2015 recipients.
The scholarships are among the oldest and most well known awards for international study. They cover tuition and living expenses for two years at the University of Oxford in England. They’re worth about $50,000 per year in U.S. dollars. Moore is the 27th student from U-M to be chosen since the program began in 1902.
“David exemplifies what we hope for all Michigan students — success in academics and extra curricular activities combined with a commitment to contributing to the world,” said Provost Martha Pollack. “We are delighted and very proud that he has been selected as a Rhodes Scholar.”
Moore will study computer science and business. He plans to complete master’s degree programs in each. And he hopes these studies, coupled with his background in mechanical engineering, will propel him toward a career in designing meaningful or sustainable products.
Product design was the focus of both his master’s and undergraduate work. He received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from U-M in 2014. And during that time, he designed a swiveling device to help wheelchair users get to their backpacks more effectively, a new type of biopsy needle, and a small, motorized towing system to help the swim team develop muscle memory.
In all of those projects, he worked directly with the people who would use what he was making, and that instilled a desire to do more of that.
“I think often companies have to take shortcuts in order to make money, and they might not always think about the sustainability aspects of the product or how users will actually use them,” Moore said.
“Maybe there are different business models or different things a designer or an entrepreneur can do to help make and promote products that will be good for the company, the environment, and the consumer.”
David Munson, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering, said, “I recall David saying, ‘It’s not how smart you are, it’s not whether you are a great athlete, it’s how far along in life you bring others.’ That powerful statement tells you everything you need to know about David. We are so proud of this accomplishment for David, for Michigan Engineering, and for U-M.”
Moore, from Holland, Mich., was a member of the men’s swim team throughout his undergraduate years, and was elected captain in 2013. He organized the team’s community service activities and was also community service chair for the Student Athlete Advisory Council.
“There’s no way I’d be in this position without Michigan athletics and all the opportunities and support that they and the swimming and diving team have given me every day these last four years,” Moore said. “The team talks about changing the world all the time. This opportunity gets me one step closer to being able to do that.”
During his four-year career, Moore was a part of four Big Ten championship-winning teams and was a member of the 2013 national championship team. Academically, Moore was a three-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and was the recipient of the Big Ten’s Postgraduate Scholarship. He is the third Michigan student-athlete to be named a Rhodes Scholar.
Swimming and diving coach Mike Bottom said Moore “walked in the door knowing that if he was to make it at Michigan, he would need to get better. He embraced our team culture determined to move towards excellence in all areas of life. … He embodies what it means to be a Michigan Man.”
The 23-year-old Moore grew up selling apples on football Saturdays in Ann Arbor, and has deep roots in the city and at the university.
“Michigan has taught me to look for new opportunities to challenge myself and I can’t wait to do that and represent the Maize and Blue abroad,” Moore said.
His mother, Anne Moore, is a School of Education alumna. One of his grandfathers, the late Richard Porter, was a professor of protozoology in the School of Public Health from the 1940s through the ’70s. His other grandfather, Milton Moore, was an owner of Ulrich’s bookstore for 16 years ending in 1986. He and David Moore’s grandmother, Delores Moore, still live in Ann Arbor, and David has dinner with them every Sunday.
This week, they went to Metzger’s German Restaurant, Delores Moore recounted. “I was almost tempted when we were leaving to say, ‘My grandson is a Rhodes Scholar!'”