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Tampa man who championed LGBT center at Wake Forest University a newly named Rhodes Scholar


imageMIAMI -- James O'Connell, a Tampa native and Wake Forest University honors graduate who championed a center for LGBT students, has big plans after studying at Oxford University as a newly-minted Rhodes Scholar.

He wants to join the U.S. Navy and become part of the elite SEALS unit.

"The dream for after Oxford is to join the SEAL teams. But that's much easier said than done. I'm ready to work for it, though," O'Connell said in an interview Sunday.

O'Connell, a 2009 graduate of Tampa's Plant High School, has been chosen as one of 32 scholars by the Rhodes Trust, as announced early Sunday. He and the others will begin their year studying at Oxford in the fall.

O'Connell was a student member of the Wake Forest Board of Trustees and a chair of the Honor Council. He has written one feature length screenplay — he said it is a political thriller that grew out of his al-Qaida thesis — as well as three short films, and he hosted a radio show on film and culture. He also led an effort to create a center at Wake Forest for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and organized events surrounding the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of the university.

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