UChicago student, Oak Brook native named 2014 Rhodes Scholars - FOX 32 News Chicago

UChicago student, Oak Brook native named 2014 Rhodes Scholars

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CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

Two college students with Chicago-area connections have earned 2014 Rhodes scholarships — including the son of an Oak Brook man who was a key figure in the probe of Rod Blagojevich's attempt to sell President Barack Obama's old Senate seat.

Vinay Nayak, a former White House intern who now attends Yale University, and Samuel Martin Greene, a University of Chicago student from Wisconsin, both earned what is the most prestigious scholarship in the English-speaking world.

Nayak, the son of Raghuveer Nayak, was a 2013 intern at the White House. Vinay Nayak had previously volunteered on Obama's 2012 re-election campaign. He is a senior at Yale, studying political science, according to the Rhodes Trust website. Greene is a senior studying chemistry. He has a lifelong interest in Zen Buddhism, according to the Trust website.

Nayak, 21, says he's still in a "state of shock" after being named a 2014 Rhodes Scholar. He spoke in a telephone interview Sunday, shortly after the winners were announced. In the phone interview, Nayak said he also felt "humbled" and "grateful."

One of his teachers when he attended Hinsdale Central High School called Nayak "a natural-born leader." Jessica Hurt says Nayak was "the most gifted and talented student" she'd ever had.

Raghuveer Nayak — the wealthy fund-raiser for convicted politicians Jesse Jackson Jr. and Rod Blagojevich — pleaded guilty in September to health-care fraud. Now in his late 50s, the pharmacist and surgery center owner is awaiting sentencing in that case. During Blagojevich's second trial, prosecutors referred to the elder Nayak as the "bribe guy," who in 2008 allegedly offered millions of dollars to Blagojevich's brother in exchange for appointing then-U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to Obama's vacant Senate seat. Nayak has never been charged criminally in connection with those allegations.

Vinay Nayak and Greene are among 32 Americans to win scholarships for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England. Rhodes scholarships were established in 1904 by the estate of Cecil Rhodes, a British philanthropist.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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