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The RIF Scholarship

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General Information

The RIF Scholarship will be awarded each year to an incoming HMC student who demonstrates exceptional mathematical ability, possibly evidenced by strong performance in mathematical competitions.

The value and number of scholarships may vary from year to year, but at least one offer of at least $5000 will be made each year. The scholarship is not need-based, and the recipient does not have to major in mathematics. The duration of the scholarship is one year, and is nonrenewable. A list of past recipients may be found here. The Endowment also funds related prizes awarded to the top three or so HMC finishers each year in the national Putnam Mathematical Competition.

Who Is Rif?

The prize and scholarship are named in honor of Andrew "Rif" Hutchings, who graduated from Harvey Mudd in May, 1998 with a degree in mathematics. Rif earned his nickname from his suitemates during his freshman year at HMC. They found him to be an incredible font of little known facts and amusing anecdotes, so they began calling him Random Information Frosh, soon shortened to Rif. Before long, all of his acquaintances at the college knew him as Rif, and most did not know his name was Andrew. Rif came to be a prominent campus figure; by the time he graduated just about everyone at Harvey Mudd knew him.

History of the Fund and the Jeopardy! Connection

It is a well-known fact among Rif's friends that he has long been a fan of the TV game show Jeopardy!, and that he aspired to appear on the show. He auditioned for the Jeopardy! College Tournament three times before receiving an invitation in February, 1998, to be one of the 15 contestants in the 1998 tournament.

The taping occurred over one weekend, March 21–22 at Zellerbach Auditorium on the UC Berkeley campus, which coincided conveniently with the end of Harvey Mudd's spring break. Rif's friends and family immediately began making arrangements to attend the taping. Over 80 of them managed to attend the event, including approximately 45 current HMC students, 15 alums, and 2 professors. According to Alex Trebek, who answered questions during the commercial breaks, this was by far the largest number of family and personal friends to show up to support a single contestant in the history of the show. Not bad for a school of 640 students.

If all of this wasn't exciting enough, Rif topped it off by winning the entire tournament! Each of his four episodes was heartstopping—he commented later, in reference to a bad turn in one of the matches, “that was one of many times when I thought I was dead meat.” But he finished looking very alive. For winning the tournament he received $25,000 in cash, a brand new Volvo, and some amusing parting gifts such as $25 worth of frozen seafood and $25 worth of Miracle Gro spikes. In addition, the Volvo Corporation of North America donated $25,000 to Harvey Mudd College to be used for scholarships.

The scholarship money from Volvo came as a surprise both to Rif and most of his fans. Immediately after this announcement during the taping, HMC professor and math department chairman Michael Moody leaned over to Rif's classmate, fellow math major and old friend Aaron Archer, to suggest using the scholarship money to attract more top math talent. Thus, the idea of the Rif Hutchings Endowment was born. Archer decided it would be a good idea to try to augment the original $25,000 with a fund-raising drive to establish an endowment that would fund scholarships in perpetuity, instead of just a one-time scholarship. Rif liked the suggestion, so Archer made it happen.

Exactly one week after the Jeopardy! taping, Archer presented the idea to HMC President Jon Strauss, who gave him the go-ahead and kicked things off with a generous personal contribution. Shortly thereafter, Patri Forwalter-Friedman (HMC math '98), another of Rif's close friends, offered to match all donations by private individuals and triple all student donations to the fund, up to a cap of $10,000. Archer got pledges from almost every single math professor at all five of the Claremont Colleges (Harvey Mudd, Pomona, Scripps, Claremont McKenna and Pitzer), as well as most Harvey Mudd faculty from all departments. HMC students, parents, alumni (most notably Ben Weiss, HMC math '94) and even students from other colleges also contributed.

There were two fundraisers to benefit the fund in the spring of 1998. On April 11, Friedman held a large party at East dorm that included, among other events, an Indentured Servant Auction to benefit the Rif Hutchings Endowment. About 25 people (mostly students, but also four professors, the President's son, and the Assistant Dean of Students) each offered up two hours of service to the highest bidder. The auction brought in about $1000. Members of the Harvey Mudd College community gathered in Galileo Hall to watch Rif's shows when they aired on May 7 (quarterfinal), 12 (semifinal), 14 and 15 (two-day final). On the suggestion of Professor Robert Borrelli, Archer organized a wine auction to follow the shows on May 14–15. This auction brought in $2596 from 82 bottles of donated wine.

As of April 2004, the endowment contained about $73,000.

Application

Submissions close on February 1, 2017. Preference will be given to applications submitted by January 25, 2017.

If you would like to apply, fill out the form below, and press the “Submit” button. If you are unable to fill out the form, you may apply on paper by printing the form (or answering the questions below) and mailing it to the following address:

RIF Scholarship Committee
Department of Mathematics
Harvey Mudd College
301 Platt Boulevard
Claremont, CA 91711

How Can I Donate to the Rif Hutchings Endowment?

If you believe in this cause, please donate! All donations are tax deductible. See HMC's giving page for details about how to contribute to the endowment—either note on the bottom of your check that it is for the “Rif Hutchings Endowment” or write an accompanying note to that effect. If you wish your contribution to benefit the scholarship only and not the prize, please note that as well.

Thank you in advance for your support!

About Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College is a private, liberal arts undergraduate institution of science, engineering and mathematics.

The Department of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College recently received the 2006 AMS Award for Exemplary Department or Program from the American Mathematical Society (AMS).

The college enrolls about 750 students of high ability; a third of them are National Merit Finalists and each year there are over 35 graduates in mathematics, with approximately half going on to graduate school. HMC is a member of the Claremont College consortium, which includes four other undergraduate colleges (Pomona, Claremont McKenna, Scripps, Pitzer) and two graduate institutions (Claremont Graduate University and Keck Graduate Institute), forming an academic community of about 5000 students. There is an active research community of over 40 mathematicians in Claremont, with faculty seminars in analysis, topology, algebra and combinatorics, and applied mathematics.

Claremont is situated approximately 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains. The community is known for its tree-lined streets and village charm. It is an easy drive from Claremont to the cultural attractions of the greater Los Angeles area, as well as the ocean, mountains and deserts of southern California.

To learn more about mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, please visit the department's home page.


Thanks to Aaron Archer for the original write-up on Rif Hutchings and the Scholarship and Prize.