This month, hundreds of Mensans will begin the challenging yet uplifting task of evaluating Mensa Foundation scholarship essays. Some 400 judges will help determine how nearly $125,000 in scholarships are allocated, based on the applicants’ written submissions.
Nearly 200 students, Mensans and non-Mensans alike, will receive funds for college, ranging from $600 to $2,000. Lost sometimes in the breadth of the Foundation’s scholarship program are the individual applicants who are impacted — and their compelling stories.
Last year, 18-year-old Nicole Hittell of Bradenton, Fla., was awarded the Harper Fowley Scholarship for Isolated Ms, or Mensans who do not belong to a particular Local Group.
Born in Wuxi, China, Nicole celebrated her first birthday on an airplane en route to the United States with her new mother, Susan. She entered the University of Florida (Gainesville) this past fall as a junior, having completed her first two years of college while finishing high school. Nicole plans to obtain her bachelor's in political science by age 20 and continue to law school for her J.D. She said she learned a lot working in her dad’s law office this past summer and hopes to eventually study abroad.
Nicole loves the classes she is taking and finds time management to be a major change from high school (although she obviously already excels in this trait). Two of her favorite books are David Copperfield and Pride and Prejudice. (She enjoys reading anything by Jane Austen.) She stays busy working out and playing sports, particularly pick-up games of basketball and running with friends on nature preserve trails.
Giving credit to her parents for supporting and guiding her and, especially, for keeping her grounded, Nicole also expressed her thankfulness for the Mensa scholarship award. Here is her winning essay.
My life started 17 years ago on a different continent, in China. Today, I am an Asian girl with a German surname living in Bradenton, Fla. My unusual background has helped mold me into the person I am today and continues to shape my unique perspective on life. Though I was born in communist China, I was given the opportunity to live in America. I have a strong sense of understanding of how my life could have been different. I am fortunate that my mother was loving and became a voice for me when she adopted me.
As a daughter of a lawyer, I was exposed to legal jargon at an early age. I heard words such as courts, appeals and litigation. My father encouraged me to volunteer as an attorney at the local Teen Court program, which allows young adolescents who have committed and pled guilty to a crime a second chance. The defendant participates in an actual trial complete with a judge, teen attorneys and jury and receives a sentence of community service. After the sentence is completed, the crime is expunged from the defendant’s record. Teen Court has saved countless young adolescents from being placed into the Juvenile Court system.
In one case, I bonded with a 17-year-old college student who was struggling to support herself. Arrested while shoplifting food, she had elected to go through Teen Court. By interviewing her before her trial, I gained details about the circumstances of her arrest as well as her academic goals to present to the jury. Her obvious remorse led me to fight hard for a reduced sentence. When she received the minimum punishment available, I felt a sense of accomplishment when she shook my hand and thanked me.
When I volunteer as an attorney at Teen Court, I’m given the choice to defend or prosecute the defendants. I always choose to defend. I try to show my clients that I care about their future and that they have been given an important opportunity to change their behavior. At-risk children need to have an advocate who believes in them.
Teen Court has inspired me to become a lawyer and earn my law degree in Florida. I hope to eventually practice criminal law. To accomplish my career goals, I enrolled in an accelerated academic program to earn my high school diploma and Associate of Arts degree simultaneously. I have maintained a 4.0 GPA for three semesters and serve as the Vice President of Scholarship of the international honor society Phi Theta Kappa.
I have taken several college-level general and criminal law classes and shadowed different types of attorneys in court to give me more experience. After I graduate in May, at age 18, I am transferring to a university in Florida as a junior to study political science as well as prepare to take the LSAT. I also plan on becoming an adult volunteer for Teen Court.
As I focus my studies, Teen Court will always be my inspiration for going into the legal field. I have a passion for the law and am deeply committed to represent people who are in trouble and in need of help. Being a voice for others, as my mother became a voice for me, motivates me.
The stories behind these essays give us hope and reward us for the time and money we contribute to the Mensa Foundation. As the annual task of evaluating scholarship essays begins, consider a donation to the Foundation to help us lighten the financial burden of higher education for more students — and to generate more of those compelling stories.
Brian Christopher Rutenberg (born September 18, 1965, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina), is an American abstract painter.
Rutenberg received his BFA from the College of Charleston in 1987 and his MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1989. He currently lives and works in New York City with his wife Kathryn and two children.
Brian Rutenberg was born on September 18 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the first of three sons, to John and Sandra Rutenberg. He attended private school at Myrtle Beach’s Coastal Academy from 1974 through 1983. After demonstrating a long-term interest in drawing, Rutenberg began after school watercolor classes, and conducted his own experiments with acrylic paints. In 1983 Rutenberg began his studies at the College of Charleston, where he met and studied under abstract painter William Melton Halsey. Also during college, Rutenberg took classes with British abstract painter Michael Tyzack, who became his faculty advisor and close friend. In 1986 Rutenberg listened for the first time to Glenn Gould’s 1981 second recording of J.S. Bach’sGoldberg Variations, which launched the artist’s deep and lasting interest in the late Canadian pianist’s music and philosophy. Rutenberg graduated with honors from College of Charleston in 1987 and moved to New York, where he entered the MFA program at the School of Visual Arts, New York.
In 1987 he met painters Gregory Amenoff and Darby Bannard who became important inspirations. He also met sculptor and collector John Raimondi who helped bring the artist's work to a wider audience. In 1989 Francis Marion University Art Gallery in Florence, South Carolina presented the artist's first solo exhibition. Rutenberg was awarded the Basil H. Alkazzi Award in 1991, which enabled him to study in Rome, Bologna and Venice, Italy for three weeks where he studied the works of Annibale Carracci, Bernini and Tiepolo. Inspired by 17th- and 18th-century Italian ceiling paintings and the Villa d'Este near Rome, Rutenberg began his River Paintings series.
In 1992 Rutenberg was awarded a year-long Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation Grant. One year later, the artist had his first New York solo exhibition, River Paintings, at Cavin-Morris Gallery. During the same year the Greenville County Museum of Art in Greenville, South Carolina organized Rutenberg’s first museum exhibition.
In 1994, Rutenberg started to take trips to Toronto and Ottawa, Canada to closely study Glenn Gould’s life and career. He traveled to Canada annually for this purpose until 2002. Inspired by Gould and his music, Rutenberg enrolled in music history classes at New York’s Juilliard School. During one of his trips to Canada, Rutenberg discovered and became intrigued with the work of Canada’s Group of Seven painters.
In 1997 Rutenberg received a Fulbright Fellowship which afforded him the opportunity to spend a year in Ireland. While in Ireland, Rutenberg was honored with studio space at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. He lectured at universities and art schools around Ireland. During his travels around Ireland, the artist’s work became shaped by Celtic Culture, specifically the La Tene Period, 600-400 BC.
Rutenberg had his first solo exhibition with Forum Gallery in Los Angeles in 2000. Forum Gallery, New York  became Rutenberg’s primary representative.
- 1993 The Greenville County Museum of Art in Greenville, South Carolina organized the artist's first museum exhibition.
- 2001 The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio created the solo exhibition: Brian Rutenberg: A Ten-Year Survey.
- 2006 The South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, South Carolina, organized a major retrospective, Brimming Tides: Paintings and Drawings by Brian Rutenberg.
- 2009 The Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina organized Brian Rutenberg: Tidesong,
- 2009 Radius Books  published the artist's monograph Brian Rutenberg, featuring written contributions from Martica Sawin and artist Gregory Amenoff.
- 2011 Rutenberg's work was the subject of an exhibition at the Burroughs-Chapin Museum of Art, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
- Sea Island Trust Visiting Artist
- 1997 Fulbright Scholarship
- Artists Work Programme Studio Grant, Irish Museum of Modern Art
- Ragdale Foundation Fellowship
- 1988 MFA Scholarship Award, School of Visual Arts
- 1987 Laura Bragg Memorial Award
Rutenberg has long placed primary importance on surface and material. His works from 1983 to 1989 included non traditional materials like cardboard, wire, masking tape, and were fashioned into shaped three-dimensional paintings and environments. From 1990 to 1995 he experimented with puncturing the picture plane with various sized holes in homage to the paintings of Lucio Fontana. Rutenberg is known for his liberal use of oil paint, sometimes up to three inches thick, and believes that a painting must address the physical presence of the viewer first.
- Art Museum of Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
- Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio
- Cameron Art Museum, Wilmington, North Carolina
- College of Charleston Foundation, South Carolina
- Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina
- Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, South Carolina
- Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
- Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, Tennessee
- Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia
- Naples Museum of Art, Naples, Florida
- Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, New York
- Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, Louisiana
- Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts
- South Carolina State Museum, Columbia, South Carolina
- Springfield Museum of Art, Springfield, Ohio
- Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut
- Baker, Kevin. Brian Rutenberg is on a brave quest for freedom in color" (review). San Francisco Chronicle, February 11, 2006.
- Bendin, Dariel. "Local Boy Makes Good". Myrtle Beach Alternatives, February 27, 2009.
- Brownfield, Paul. "Gould variations". Sun News (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina), January 5, 1997.
- Day, Jeffrey. "Going with the Flow" (review). The State (Columbia, South Carolina). January 17, 1993.
- De Santis, Solange. "A Glenn Gould Gathering". The Wall Street Journal, October 7, 1999.
- Drake, Nicholas. "Rutenberg’s Imagination Soars with Oil and Canvas". The Post and Courier, (South Carolina), March 21, 1996.
- Ebony, David. (review). Art in America, May 1994.
- Johnson, Ken. "For a Broad Landscape, an Equally Wide Survey". The New York Times, May 31, 2006.
- Lang, Sandy. "MB Artist wins Alkazzi Award". The Sun News, December 21, 1991.
- Lucas, Scott. "Lush, Lusty Landscapes". Creative Loafing Magazine, 2003.
- Melrod, George. "Abstract Visions". Art & Antiques, November 1996.
- Sawin, Martica. Brian Rutenberg. Preface by Gregory Amenoff, Introduction by Walter Darby Bannard. Radius Books. 2009. ISBN 9781934435090
- Smith, Nick. "For painter Brian Rutenberg, the waiting isn't the hardest part: The Prince of Tides". Charleston City Paper, November 9, 2009.
- Sozanksi, Edward J. "Uncommon Dignity for Common People". The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 18, 2000.