University of South Carolina

Junior, alumnus earn Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships

Robert John “R.J.” May III, a 2009 graduate of the University of South Carolina, and J. Emrys McMahon, a USC junior, have been awarded Rotary International Ambassadorial Academic Year Scholarships.

Robert John “R.J.” May III
Robert John “R.J.” May III
J. Emrys McMahon
J. Emrys McMahon

Sponsored by Rotary District 7770, May and McMahon will study abroad in the 2011-12 academic year and serve as ambassadors for Rotary, USC, South Carolina and the United States.

May, who majored in political science and criminal justice, plans to pursue a master’s in international security and diplomacy in Tel Aviv. As a student at USC, May was a McKissick scholar and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. While working full time, he participated in intramural sports, academic honor societies and the College Republicans. He earned the Benjamin A. Gillman Scholarship and the William Jefferson Clinton Scholarship for study in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. While abroad, he visited 21 countries in South Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Most recently, he was grassroots director in U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson’s 2010 re-election campaign. May said “he has chosen to study in Tel Aviv because “an understanding of Middle Eastern cultures, both Arabic and Israeli, is a precursor of peace for the region”. Also it is imperative that the United States strengthen ties with our strongest ally in the region.

May is the son of Karen and Robert J. “Bobby” May of Newport News, Va., and is a graduate of Menchville High School in Newport News.

McMahon is majoring in chemical engineering and plans to study at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, India. He is the son of Alice Oakes McMahon of Pawleys Island and James McMahon of Brookside, Utah. A graduate of the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Math, where he had a close friend from India, McMahon says learning about India “really opened my eyes to the country’s potential as an international leader in science and engineering.”

He is the recipient of a Lieber Scholarship and a Magellan Scholarship and is a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. He has worked closely with Dr. John Van Zee’s fuel-cell group, conducting research on alternative-energy sources. McMahon says he is eager to learn about the Indian educational system and that nation’s approach to energy and environmental engineering.

“As India’s technology develops, it has the opportunity to grow in such a way that provides a solid foundation for an alternative-energy economy,” he said.

McMahon says he also hopes to work with Indian elementary- or middle-school students and teach them environmental responsibility.

May’s and McMahon’s selection brings the university’s total of Rotary scholars to 81 since the 1994 establishment of the Office of Fellowships and Scholar Programs (OFSP), which helps students prepare for national fellowship competitions. To learn more about such competitions and view a complete list of the university’s Rotary scholars, visit

Rotary is the world’s largest privately funded international scholarship program whose scholars further international understanding and friendly relations among people of different countries and geographical areas by encouraging individual diplomacy. Academic-year scholarships, valued at $27,000, provide nine months of study abroad and encourage recipients to engage in community service.

By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 11/30/10 @ 5:20 PM | Updated: 12/02/10 @ 2:58 PM | Permalink

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