A Rhodes Scholar who won a coveted scholarship at Oxford after claiming she overcame childhood abuse and grew up in foster care has been accused of lying to officials and is in fact the daughter of a radiologist who went to private school. 

Mackenzie Fierceton, 24, describes herself as a ‘queer, first generation, low income’ student at The University of Pennsylvania. In 2020, she was given a scholarship to go to Oxford after dazzling the Rhodes Trust with her story of how she overcame welfare, an abusive mother and the foster care system.  

In a November 2020 Philadelphia Inquirer news article about the scholarship, she was lauded as a ‘first-generation student’ who ‘has been low-income throughout her life, and grew up in foster care.’ 

She said at the time that she would have traded the prestigious scholarship to have been ‘adopted and have a family’. 

But in reality, she went to the $30,000-a-year Whitfield private school in St. Louis, Missouri. Her mother is cardiologist Dr. Carrie Morrison, and her hobbies at school included horseback riding, skydiving and white water rafting. 

She spent less than a year in foster care in 2014 after telling police that her mother pushed her down stairs and left her ‘caked in blood’. Her mother was arrested for abuse at the time but the charges were dropped due to a lack of evidence – something she did not include in her admissions essays.

The article about her scholarship prompted an anonymous tip to the Rhodes Trust and UPenn which included details of her charmed upbringing and photos of her in school. 

Now, she has withdrawn from the Rhodes program and UPenn is withholding her masters degree pending further investigation.  

Mackenzie Fierceton, 24, describes herself as a 'queer, first generation, low income' student at The University of Pennsylvania, was given a scholarship to go to Oxford this year after dazzling the Rhodes Trust with her story of how she overcame welfare, an abusive mother and the foster care system.

Mackenzie Fierceton, 24, describes herself as a 'queer, first generation, low income' student at The University of Pennsylvania, was given a scholarship to go to Oxford this year after dazzling the Rhodes Trust with her story of how she overcame welfare, an abusive mother and the foster care system.

Mackenzie Fierceton, 24, describes herself as a ‘queer, first generation, low income’ student at The University of Pennsylvania, was given a scholarship to go to Oxford this year after dazzling the Rhodes Trust with her story of how she overcame welfare, an abusive mother and the foster care system.

According to an investigation by The Chronicle of Higher Education, the only portion of her story which appeared to be true was that she had at one time been in foster care. 

In 2014, A 17-year-old Mackenzie told police that her mother pushed her down stairs and struck her. 

Mackenze's mother, Dr Carrie Morrison, a radiologist from St. Louis. In 2014, Mackenzie told police her mother pushed her down stairs and hit her. Dr. Morrison was arrested but the case  was later dropped due to a lack of evidence

Mackenze's mother, Dr Carrie Morrison, a radiologist from St. Louis. In 2014, Mackenzie told police her mother pushed her down stairs and hit her. Dr. Morrison was arrested but the case  was later dropped due to a lack of evidence

Mackenze’s mother, Dr Carrie Morrison, a radiologist from St. Louis. In 2014, Mackenzie told police her mother pushed her down stairs and hit her. Dr. Morrison was arrested but the case  was later dropped due to a lack of evidence 

Dr. Morrison was arrested at the time but the case was dropped by prosecutors who said they could never prove Mackenzie’s claims. 

She told police that Mackenzie asked her to pull some gum out of her hair while she was standing at the top of the staircase. Dr. Morrison said she tried to, but that she ‘jerked’, fell down two stairs then sat down. 

It’s unclear exactly what happened next but she spent 22 days in hospital, then went to live in foster care for less than a year. 

She continued studying at Whitfield and it’s unclear who paid her tuition.   

She then applied to UPenn with a dramatic admissions essay where she claimed her mother threw her down stairs, into a metal table and beat her. 

In her telling of the incident, Mackenzie said she woke up the day after it, drove herself to school then collapsed in front of a teacher. She says she then woke up in the hospital, ‘caked in blood.’

She referred to her ‘facial features’ being ‘so distorted and swollen that I cannot tell them apart.’, said going to the bathroom required an ‘army of nurses,’ and that braces stabilized ‘most of her body’.  

Mackenzie stayed with the foster care family, changed her name to Fierceton, then applied for college and was accepted.  

She identified in application as ‘queer’, ‘low income’ and a ‘first generation student.’  

In the Philadelphia Inquirer interview from November 2020, she described high school as ‘a very challenging and isolating experience’. 

‘At my school, everyone kind of knew me as like the foster kid who all these bad things had happened to,’ she said. 

She did not mention which school she went to – or that it was private.  

She maintains that she never lied and that the Rhodes Trust is attacking a ‘survivor’ of abuse. 

In a lawsuit filed in December, she accused The University of Pennsylvania and Rhodes Trust investigators of victimizing her. 

Her full background only came to light after an anonymous tip was sent to the Rhodes Trust last year. 

The sender had read an article about her winning the scholarship, and wanted to tell officials that she was being ‘blatantly dishonest’ with her story.  

They included photos of her at Whitfield and information about her mother. 

In a statement to The Chronicle, Dr. Morrison said: ‘Mackenzie is deeply loved by her mom and family. Our greatest desire is that Mackenzie chooses to live a happy, healthy, honest, and productive life, using her extraordinary gifts for the highest good.’

Fierceton, who was born Mackenzie Morrison, is shown with AOC in a photo from her Facebook page. She presented herself to university officials as a 'queer, low income, first generation' student

Fierceton, who was born Mackenzie Morrison, is shown with AOC in a photo from her Facebook page. She presented herself to university officials as a 'queer, low income, first generation' student

Fierceton, who was born Mackenzie Morrison, is shown with AOC in a photo from her Facebook page. She presented herself to university officials as a ‘queer, low income, first generation’ student 

Mackenzie is shown advocating for a cure to epilepsy. After her story made the local news in Philadelphia, an anonymous tipster notified university officials tha she had been 'blatantly dishonest' about her background

Mackenzie is shown advocating for a cure to epilepsy. After her story made the local news in Philadelphia, an anonymous tipster notified university officials tha she had been 'blatantly dishonest' about her background

Mackenzie is shown advocating for a cure to epilepsy. After her story made the local news in Philadelphia, an anonymous tipster notified university officials tha she had been ‘blatantly dishonest’ about her background 

Mackenzie is shown in a Zoom presentation where she talks about being a 'marginalized identity'

Mackenzie is shown in a Zoom presentation where she talks about being a 'marginalized identity'

Mackenzie is shown in a Zoom presentation where she talks about being a ‘marginalized identity’

She would not give any further details. 

The Trust, in its investigation, said it couldn’t find medical records to support Mackenzie’s claim that her mother broke her ribs and left her with blood in her hair. 

During a Zoom interview, Mackenzie told the investigators that it did happen, and that her mother had tried to kill her. 

Sherry McClain, a nurse who tended to her verified some of her story, saying: ‘She was physically hurt, but even more so was how in shock she was. She was just this vacant, broken, empty child.’  

‘It could very well be more exaggerated than it was, but the fact of the matter was it was legit, you know? I would never go to bat for somebody who I thought was making something up.’ 

In the Philadelphia Inquirer profile, Mackenzie said she would ‘trade’ her scholarship to have been ‘adopted and have a family.’ 

Dr. Morrison lives in a four-bedroom, $790,000 home in Chesterfield, a suburb of St. Louis.

In diary entries that were obtained by police after the alleged 2014 abuse incident, Mackenzie wrote how she didn’t like her mother’s boyfriend, and wanted to live elsewhere. 

She weighed up the ‘pros and cons’ of reporting her mother for abuse, and among the cons were ‘could go into Foster Care,’, ‘no college money, car, etc’, and ‘no one could believe me. mom could convince everyone I’m crazy.’

Source: Daily Mail

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