Rex Woodbury ’15 has a notable track record, so to speak: He competed in cross-country at Dartmouth, has finished several marathons, and even broke the world record for the fastest half-marathon run while wearing a suit and tie. So, it’s fitting that Woodbury was in the middle of a run when he got a life-changing phone call last week.
On the other end of the line was John Hennessy, president emeritus of Stanford University. Hennessy was joined by Derrick Bolton and Jeff Wachtel, dean of admissions and executive director, respectively, of the world’s largest fully endowed scholarship program: Stanford’s Knight-Hennessy Scholars. The trio informed Woodbury of his acceptance into the program’s 2019 cohort. “I was thrilled and speechless,” Woodbury says.
The Arizona native joins a group of nearly 70 students from 20 countries who will receive full funding for graduate studies among all seven of Stanford’s schools. In 2019, the program accepted a mere 1.5 percent of applicants; criteria were based primarily on independence of thought, purposeful leadership, and a civic mindset.
It’s not hard to see why Woodbury’s application stood out, having graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth with an economics degree. He went on to work as an analyst for Goldman Sachs before becoming an investor and then Chief of Staff for TPG Growth and The Rise Fund. There, he focused on global growth equity and social impact funds, helping to incubate and launch a public benefit corporation to measure social impact.
Since his early years at Dartmouth, Woodbury has also been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ inclusiveness, particularly in athletics and business. He’s the founder and CEO of Worthy Mentoring, an organization that provides support and guidance for members of the LGBTQ community.
Woodbury will pursue a master’s degree in business administration at Stanford Graduate School of Business. His goal? To figure out how business can create positive change. “Capitalism can be a powerful force for good—it’s the engine behind job creation, economic growth, and innovation,” he says. “But it’s currently working for the few and not the many. I hope to collaborate with the other Scholars on how we can redirect capitalism for good.” Specifically, he’s interested in how technology and education intersect for lifelong learning and workforce development.
In his new program, Woodbury sees parallels with the multidisciplinary, community-focused environment he found in college. “Dartmouth is the rare place that encourages both breadth and depth of learning,” he says. “The liberal arts curriculum helped me develop an intellectual curiosity. And I met wonderful people—which makes me excited to be part of another close-knit community.”
Woodbury is the third Dartmouth grad to join Knight-Hennessy Scholars; the program’s inaugural 2018 cohort included two other alumni. “It’s very exciting to see the launch of such a major new scholarship,” says Jessica Smolin, Dartmouth’s assistant dean of faculty for scholarship advising. “What’s even more exciting is that at least one member of the Dartmouth community has been part of each Knight-Hennessy cohort,” she adds, noting that the Office of Fellowship Advising is always happy to guide students and alumni towards this and other opportunities.
Of course, we had to ask Woodbury whether getting a Knight-Hennessy acceptance was tougher than breaking a half marathon record while wearing a suit and a tie. The verdict: “I'd have to say that the Knight-Hennessy Scholars process was more difficult—but involved a lot fewer blisters,” he quips.
Those two accomplishments might seem totally different, but there’s a common thread that unites them. “Although I've channeled my enthusiasm in some unconventional ways, my underlying motivator has always been an awareness of how lucky I am: from my dad’s and brother's support, to the opportunity to study at Dartmouth, to now being a part of the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program,” Woodbury says. “My accomplishments are as much a product of the opportunities I've been given, and it's important to me to use my good fortune to create greater equality of opportunity in the world.”