Even before he arrived at Ohio Wesleyan, Victor David Ayala Vera ’24 took a snapshot with the statue of former U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes in downtown Delaware. Ayala Vera is Paraguay’s first recipient of the Hayes Scholarship at OWU. (Photo courtesy of Victor David Ayala Vera)

A Different Kind of Presidential Scholar

Paraguayan Student Earns Ohio Wesleyan’s First Rutherford B. Hayes Scholarship

By Sarah Jonassen ’22

Victor David Ayala Vera ’24 began learning about former U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes at a young age and is excited to be Paraguay’s first recipient of the Hayes Scholarship at Ohio Wesleyan University.

“I've known about President Hayes' contributions to the country post-war due to it being taught in history during middle school,” said Ayala Vera of San Lorenzo, Central, Paraguay. “There is a department (the equivalent of a U.S. state) named after him in the north of the country, so I think it’s rare for people to not know about him.”

A Picture-Perfect Moment

Ayala Vera said he was excited to visit the Hayes statue in downtown Delaware, where the future president was born in 1822.

“Right after I arrived at Columbus for the first time and before setting foot on campus, I stopped by the statue and took a picture!” said Ayala Vera, who earned his scholarship in 2020-2021. He was joined on campus this fall by Paraguay’s second Hayes Scholarship recipient, Nico Mazzoleni ’25 of Asuncion.

A National Hero

During Hayes’ presidency, he solved an international dispute between Paraguay and Argentina in 1878. His decision to grant Paraguay sovereign rights over the lands between the Pilcomayo and Verde rivers was crucial in the South American country’s survival, making him a national hero there.

In 2020, Ohio Wesleyan established the Hayes Scholarship with the Embassy of Paraguay to honor the late president and Delaware native.

Ohio Wesleyan also has a long history with both Hayes and his first lady, Lucy Webb Hayes. Hayes proposed to her on the steps of Elliott Hall, and Hayes Hall is named her honor. She was a student and eventual board member of what once was Ohio Wesleyan’s female college.

A Welcoming Campus

In discussing his OWU experience so far, Ayala Vera spoke about the close campus community.

“It’s small and easy to get to know most of the people and facilities on campus,” he said. “I got to remember most of the students by working in the cafeteria for almost a year.”

He plans to achieve his goals through Ohio Wesleyan’s Computer Science program.

“I also would like to do research on BCIs (Brain-Computer Interfaces),” he said. “I expect to learn more as I enter the upper-level courses next semester and be introduced to opportunities from internships or projects.”

Learn more about the Rutherford B. Hayes Scholarship and international student enrollment at Ohio Wesleyan.