April E. Clark
Nov 21, 2006
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – On his road to success, Charles “Chas” Salmen has not forgotten the small mountain town where it all started.From the halls of Duke University to his upcoming journey to Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, Salmen gives Glenwood Springs credit for taking him there.”I went through kindergarten to my senior year in Glenwood’s public schools,” said Salmen, who was named Duke’s 41st Rhodes Scholar this weekend. “I’m still very connected. I feel like a lot of my education in public schools made me who I am.”Even during the intense interviews for the Rhodes Scholarship – which awards Salmen the opportunity to study for his master’s degree in medical anthropology – his hometown was on his mind.”They asked me for a word in Arabic and I thought of ‘ghorba,’ which comes from the word ‘ghorb,’ which means the west. It’s also translated as homesickness,” he said. “It’s a continuing awareness of where I’m from.”Salmen, who is back in town for the Thanksgiving holiday, grew up in Glenwood running track and cross country, skiing and competing in mock trials in high school. He could be found running with his brother, Marco – who’s a year younger and also attends Duke – and hanging out with friends such as locals Jake Taufer and Gus Lundin.”He was always someone who could help motivate you,” Taufer said. “He’s such a regular guy, such a nice guy – he’s nice to everyone. We still go on hut trips every year.”
Making friends with Taufer in Mr. Benson’s fourth-grade class or prepping for a mock trial with coach Vic Zerbi are memories of Glenwood Salmen cherishes. He spoke of his respect for his public-school education in the mountains as the Rhodes Scholars committee members made notes during Saturday’s interviews.”Hopefully I was able to convey that to the committee,” he said. No surpriseDuring the selection process, Bob Brooks – Salmen’s Glenwood Springs High School English, literature and creative writing teacher – was hoping the committee took notice of his hard-working attitude.”I wasn’t too surprised he won because here’s the thing – he’s exceptionally intelligent, but he combines that with an incredible work ethic,” said Brooks, as the two met up at Sayre Park to visit Monday afternoon. “Chas could have coasted through Glenwood Springs High School with his feet on the handle bars, but he didn’t. It wasn’t about grades, it was about improving himself.”Brooks remembers Salmen asking him to “be brutal” when grading his papers, causing a laugh between the two.”Mr. Brooks would mark up my papers,” Salmen said, with a grin.
Salmen – whose studies on Walt Whitman and D.H. Lawrence won a prize as most outstanding and original senior thesis at Duke – only has one more paper to write before graduation. Then he’s off to Oxford and on to medical school. Salmen is one of 32 Rhodes Scholars among nearly 900 applicants at 340 colleges and universities nationwide to be chosen for the honor.That’s enough to make any parent proud.”Nancy and I are very humbled and very proud,” said Chas’ dad, Paul Salmen, a physician at Glenwood Medical Associates. “We’re so pleased, and we’re so proud of him. We’re just so blessed to have two sons who love being successful in academics. That never had to be forced, just encouraged.”From an early age, Paul Salmen said he knew Chas would succeed.”He always had a gift for communication. He was an effective communicator when he was 3 years old,” he recalled. “And he could hold a conversation with an adult by the time he was 6 years old.”During his collegiate career, Chas Salmen used those innate communication skills to help others. He organized an Arab-Jewish student coalition, co-authored two research papers published in the Journal of Urology, volunteered in Durham’s Big Brother Big Sisters program, and motivated his cross-country team to donate first-aid kits to Hurricane Katrina victims. He was also captain of the Duke indoor and outdoor track and cross-country teams.”He’s naturally smart, but he’s also a hard worker,” Taufer said. “I think he seemed surprised that he won, but none of us were.”