McNair Scholar & Rutgers Graduate Becomes University's First Marshall Scholar

Diego A. Atehortua

Diego A. Atehortúa recalls watching his grandfather carve and stain wooden crucifixes in Colombia, not long before his family escaped the country’s decades-long armed conflict. They moved to Englewood, New Jersey, where a young Atehortúa would admire his father’s calligraphy and drawings of human figures.

Those experiences were his introduction to the world of art, said Atehortúa, a standout researcher of Latin American art history. “I wouldn’t consider myself an artist; for me, the fun aspect is interpreting and writing about art,” he said. 

Atehortúa today became the first Rutgers University graduate to win the prestigious Marshall Scholarship. He was one of only 46 people in the United States awarded the postgraduate scholarship out of a pool of more than 1,000 applicants. The newest class of Marshall Scholars is the second-largest in the program's 66-year history and among the most diverse.

Over one-third of this year's class are from minority backgrounds and 61 percent of this year's class are female scholars. Recipients are entitled to pursue advanced degrees at United Kingdom universities of their choice.

“Being the first Rutgers student awarded a Marshall Scholarship serves as a recognition of the dignity of immigrants and an affirmation of the value of the arts and humanities,” said Atehortúa, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University-New Brunswick’s School of Arts and Sciences in 2018. He majored in art history with a minor in Latin American studies.

First awarded in 1954, the competitive Marshall Scholarship covers recipients’ cost of tuition, books, travel and living expenses. Britain established the scholarship in gratitude for the U.S.-financed Marshall Plan that helped the U.K. rebuild after World War II.

“This scholarship is another example of the wonderful quality and rich backgrounds of our students,” said Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor Chris Molloy. “Diego’s academic achievements and intellectual curiosity are to be admired and should serve as a model for what Rutgers students can accomplish as they head out into the world.”

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