Lonesome Rhodes

Posted: 23 September by Brett Hoover in Alumni, Dartmouth, Yale
Tags: , ,

One of the new elements to this relaunched website is a list of Ivy League track and field competitors who earned Rhodes Scholarships. And when I posted the list, I noticed a name that reminded me of his story, one I intended to write years ago, but never did.

His name was Robert Michelet, a hammer thrower for the Dartmouth Big Green. Also a football star in Hanover, Michelet was elected as the team captain of the track team before his senior year, from which he was sure to make news as he pursued further studies and then a career.

He was the kind of person who could do no wrong. According to Time Magazine, in the spring of 1934 his Dartmouth classmates selected him as the most versatile, most popular and most respected member. He was also picked as the one who had done most for Dartmouth from their class. Oh, and he had been named a recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship.

He was such an outstanding student and person, his classmates also unanimously elected Michelet as the permanent president of the class.

Even though he had already died. In March of his senior year, a cold had given way to pneumonia and within weeks he was dead.

Time Magazine covered his loss. At Mercersburg Academy, a memorial statue was placed in his honor. And the eulogy delivered by Dartmouth President Ernest Martin Hopkins was amazing:

“He had strength of character combined with a sweetness which made it persuasive. He had uncommon mental capacity, entirely devoid of intellectual arrogance. He had that charm of personality which attaches to one of independent judgment. He had that quality of soul which makes a man a spiritual influence, whether within or without the forms of conventional religious expression. Remembrance of him is too vivid to put in the past tense. The memories of him are of a boy whom to know about was to admire, whom to work with was to respect, whom to associate with was to love.”

But what struck me was the eerie similarity to another Ivy athlete who would tragically pass before heading to Oxford. Yale’s Roosevelt Thompson died in a New Jersey car wreck within a week of 50 years to the date of Michelet’s death. I wrote about Thompson several years ago for Ivy Black History, but the following videos tell the story better. They are both worth your time.

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