A home-schooled Air Force Academy cadet who was born in Bucks County and whose parents now live in Bala Cynwyd is one of 32 American students chosen as Rhodes scholars.

Zachary A. Crippen, 20, a senior at the Colorado Springs academy, hopes to go to law school after his stint at Oxford University, his parents said.

And more than one friend has only half-jokingly predicted that his ultimate goal could be the White House, they said.

"His nickname at the academy is 'Prez,' " his mother, Michelle, said Sunday as she and her husband, the Rev. Alan Crippen, talked about their older son.

Crippen studied Arabic in Egypt and also spent time with the Israel Defense Forces studying Israeli-Palestinian relations and Israel's relationship with the United States. The youngest member of his Air Force Academy class, he is scheduled to graduate in May.

In a telephone interview Sunday night, Crippen said he was humbled by his selection as a Rhodes scholar.

Calling it a "life dream," he said he hoped to use the education and experience "to influence the world for good."

He said he hoped to study "the nexus of ethics, politics, and the law" and use that to build a career in the military or in civilian life after his commitment to the Air Force is up.

"I've known since I was very young that I wanted to live a life of public service," he said. "And I think the military is an excellent way to at least start that because it inculcates a sense of discipline, I think develops in you a zeal and a love for your country that is hard to parallel."

Another Rhodes scholar, Bryn Mawr College senior Nina Cohen of Newton, Mass., said she was honored and humbled, especially considering the field.

"I've intellectually processed it, not really emotionally," said Cohen, who plans to study political theory with a focus on how varied ethical beliefs are reconciled within a liberal framework and constitutional law.

Crippen, a music prodigy who plays piano and organ, plans to work on two master's degrees, in public policy and in global governance and diplomacy.

Born in Perkasie and primarily schooled at home by his mother, Crippen was doing multiplication at age 3, Michelle Crippen said.

By the time he was 16, he was the paid music director at a church in Colorado Springs, where the family was living, she added.

Michelle Crippen said that from an early age, her son was gifted in music and math, but she said he also had a sense of giving and caring that were the true marks of his character.

As an example, she said, he gave his salary as music director to his oldest sister, Christina, now 22, when she was away at college.

In addition to Zachary and Christina, the Crippens have three other children, Brittany, 19; Schuyler, 17; and Felicity, 8.

The Rhodes Trust chose 32 American students as Rhodes scholars. The awards provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the prestigious university in England.

The winners were selected from 830 applicants endorsed by 299 colleges and universities. The scholars will enter Oxford in October. They will join an international group of scholars from 14 other jurisdictions around the world. About 80 scholars are selected each year.

Contact staff writer George Anastasia

at 856-779-3846 or ganastasia@phillynews.com.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.