Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jim Schelberg and Stephan Jordan Earn Double Honors As College Bestows Annual Awards

Gold Pentagon Award winners Stephan Jordan and Jim Schelberg with
President Reiss. Each would soon return for another major award.
CHESTERTOWN, MD—Two graduating seniors were doubly honored for their achievements and service as Washington College awarded its most important medals and prizes during 2012 Commencement on May 20. Stephan Anthony Jordan and James Hoitsma Schelberg shared the Gold Pentagon Award, which recognizes meritorious service to the College, and each also received solo recognition.

Schelberg, who graduated summa cum laude, took home the prestigious George Washington Medal as “the senior who shows the greatest promise of understanding and realizing in life and work the ideals of a liberal education.” Washington himself (as portrayed by actor Dean Malissa) strode to the podium to present the Medal, then briefly addressed the crowd, continuing a Commencement tradition.

To the delight of visitors, General George Washington strides to the
 podium to personally award his namesake Medal to Jim Schelberg.
A double major in philosophy and humanities, Jim Schelberg came to Washington College on a Hodson Trust Star Scholarship after serving with the U.S. Marines in Iraq. He interrupted his studies to serve a second tour of duty with the Marines, this time in Afghanistan. While on campus, the Towson native has been a member of the Douglass Cater Society of Junior Fellows; conducted research at the University of Oxford as part of the College’s summer Oxford Research Seminar on Religion, Politics and Culture; taught boxing as founder of the Washington College Mixed Martial Arts Club; and conducted important archival research for the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and the Maryland State Archives. At the Senior Awards Luncheon held the Friday before Commencement, Schelberg received the Norman James Humanities Award for Excellence and the Department of Philosophy and Religion Award.

 Washington salutes Schelberg.
Last summer he launched a prison outreach program called Partners in Philosophy, which offers courses in philosophy, logic and ethics to inmates of Maryland’s Jessup Correctional Institution. Washington College professors joined him to lead several of the classes, which ranged from ethical choices in Art History to the teachings of Plato, Buddha and Frederick Douglass. He will continue the program this summer. Schelberg earned national recognition as one of only 20 students nationwide to be selected for the 2011 USA Today All-USA College Academic Team.

Stephan Jordan was the faculty’s choice for the Henry W. Catlin 1894 Medal, awarded to “a senior man voted by the faculty to be outstanding in the qualities of scholarship, character, leadership and campus citizenship.” A political science major and drama minor from Frederick, Md., who graduated cum laude, Jordan served as a Peer Mentor, sang with WACappella and served on both the Student Government Association and the Honor Board. As a Hansard Scholar, he spent a semester in London, studying parliamentary government and British public policy at the London School of Economics and Politics and interning in the House of Commons. Last fall, Governor Martin O’Malley appointed him to be the student representative on the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

Virginia Long was awarded for her science
achievements and her appreciation of the arts.
Virginia Agnes Long of Silver Spring, Md., received the Jane Huston Goodfellow Memorial Prize, which recognizes an especially well- rounded science major “who has an abiding appreciation of the arts and humanities and has shown scholastic excellence.” She graduated magna cum laude and also earned a Department of Biology Research Award. A member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Douglass Cater Society of Junior Fellows, she was active in drama and dance productions during her four years on campus.  

Jesse James Schaefer won the Eugene B. Casey Medal, as “a senior woman voted by the faculty to be outstanding in the qualities of scholarship, character, leadership and campus citizenship.” A summa cum laude graduate who majored in sociology and human development, Schaefer was active in numerous organizations, including the Douglass Cater Society of Junior Fellows, the Peer Mentors, Equestrian Club, the Pi Lambda Theta education honor society and the Service Council. Schaefer, who hails from Bridgeton, N.J., also was awarded the Education Department Award, the Margaret Horsley Award (for “the clearest understanding of human social behavior”), the Sociology Service Award, the Karen Kaitz Emerick Award (recognizing strong character, leadership and service), and an Outstanding Community Service Recognition.

Jesse Schaefer steps forward for the Eugene B. Casey Medal.
Clark-Porter winner Antonio 
The Clark-Porter Medal went to student-government leader Andrew Francis John Antonio, who led the SGA for three years. The Medal recognizes “the student whose character and personal integrity, in the opinion of the faculty, have most clearly enhanced the quality of campus life.” Antonio, who grew up in Middletown, Del., also received the Schottland Business Leadership Award and the W. Dennis Berry ’87 Leadership Award. 
Goldstein winner Kimberly Pittman
Kimberly Nicole Pittman of Bel Air, Md., received the Louis L. Goldstein ’35 Award as the senior who “has demonstrated unusual interest, enthusiasm and potential in the field of public affairs.”  The International Studies major concentrated her studies on issues of peace and conflict and was the first Washington College student to take part in an exclusive internship program with NATO’s U.S. Mission in Brussels. She also was a member of the Douglass Cater Society of Junior Fellows and studied abroad in South Africa. A summa cum laude graduate, Pittman also took home Gender Studies and International Studies awards.

Medal winners Schaefer and Schelberg were among the four 2012 graduates who shared First Honors distinction for boasting the highest cumulative grade point average in the class. The other two top scholars were Michael Ryan Vanaskie, who also took home the Economics Department Award, and Courtney Rebecca Burton, who received the Psychology Department Outstanding Achievement Award and an Outstanding Community Service Recognition.

The 2012 Sophie Kerr Prize for literary promise was officially awarded to Kathryn J. Manion in the form of a check for $58,274. She had been announced as the winner May 15 at a special program in New York City where she and four other Prize finalists—Natalie L. Butz, Douglas S. Carter, Maria N. Queen and Erica A. Walburg—read from their portfolios.

Professor Christine Wade reacts to being named this year's recipient of
the Alumni Association's Distinguished Teaching Award.
Two professors were singled out for recognition during the Commencement. The Alumni Association’s Distinguished Teaching Award, based on input from both faculty and students, went to Christine J. Wade, associate professor of political science and international studies. A specialist in Latin American politics who joined the Washington College faculty in 2003, she is faculty advisor for students concentrating on Peace and Conflict Studies or Latin American Studies.

President Reiss congratulates the faculty recipient of
the Gold Pentagon Award, Mindy Reynolds-Walsh.
And Omicron Delta Kappa chose biology professor Mindy Reynolds-Walsh to receive a Gold Pentagon Award. Each year, the leadership honor society selects both a student winner or winners (this year, Schelberg and Jordan), and an alumnus, faculty member or friend of the College to recognize for their service to Washington College. A cell biologist who joined the faculty in 2008, Reynolds-Walsh researches the effects of chronic exposure to metal compounds.

Below is a full listing of the awards announced at the Senior Luncheon. For photos, visit the Campus Gallery page about the event.

Class of 2012 Senior Awards
 Given at the Senior Luncheon, May 18, 2012.

The American Studies Program Senior Capstone Experience Award, awarded to a graduating American studies major with the most outstanding senior research project: Amanda Lyn Whitaker

The Lynette Nielsen Art Award,  to acknowledge excellence in art: Alexandra Allerton Harlow Woodworth

The Art History Award,  to acknowledge excellence in the field of art history: Sean Michael Meade and Douglas Stewart Carter, Jr.

The Department of Biology Allied Health Professional Award, to the graduating biology major who has demonstrated academic excellence, who is pursuing an allied health degree, and who has a strong potential for success in an allied health field: Bethany Jordan Ackerman and Brittany Nicole Palasik

The Department of Biology Medical Professional Award, to the graduating biology major who has demonstrated academic excellence, who is pursuing a medical or veterinary degree, and who has a strong potential for success in the medical or veterinary fields: Katelyn Rose Laury and Benjamin David Longwell

The Department of Biology Research Award, to the graduating biology major who has demonstrated excellence in academics and undergraduate biological research: Virginia Agnes Long and Benjamin David Longwell

The Department of Biology Award of Special Recognition, awarded on special occasion to the graduating biology major who has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement and an exceptional depth of understanding in the field of biology: John Matthews Eglseder II

The Department of Biology Teaching Award, awarded on special occasion to the graduating biology major who has demonstrated academic excellence and exceptional dedication to science education: Alyssa Jacqueline Forget and Hannah Elizabeth O’Malley

The Department of Business Management Award, given to a graduating business major who has demonstrated outstanding qualities of scholarship, character and leadership: Allyson Leigh Yawman 

The Department of Business Management Senior Capstone Experience Award,  to a graduating business major with the most outstanding senior research project demonstrating high scholarship and analytical skills: Chelsea Caitlin Simpson

Schottland Business Leadership Award, awarded to the graduating business major who shows outstanding academic ability and leadership potential: Andrew Francis John Antonio

The Joseph H. McLain ’37 Prize, awarded to the graduating senior who, in the opinion of the Department of Chemistry, shows the greatest promise for making a future contribution to human understanding of chemistry. Endowed in 1982 by members of the American Pyrotechnics Association: Sean Andrew Harrison

The James R. Miller ’51 Award for Excellence in Chemistry, to an outstanding senior majoring in chemistry or a premedical student who has demonstrated special interest and high academic achievement in chemistry: Kelsie Elizabeth Jensen

The Stewart Drama Award, to a senior who has made outstanding contributions to the College through
dramatic and speaking ability. Endowed by Pearl Griffin Stewart ’05: Margaret Anne Matthews

The Economics Department Award, awarded to a graduating senior for outstanding academic performance and the potential for high achievement in the field of economics: Michael Ryan Vanaskie and Meghan Elyse Lepley

The Dr. Davy H. McCall Prize in Economics, to a graduating senior majoring in economics who has demonstrated special interest and high academic achievement and superior oral and written abilities in international economics: Leah Rae Sbriscia

The Maureen Jacoby Prize, to the graduating senior who has demonstrated dedication to student publications at Washington College, and has a strong potential for a future in the field of publications: Olivia Hamilton Mott

The Emil J. C. Hildenbrand Memorial Medal, to the senior who attains the highest average in English during the four years of study. Given by the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Alumni Association: Marta Lee Wesenberg

The Writers’ Union Award, for outstanding service to the Writers’ Union.  A gift of Robert L. Chamberlin, Jr. ’48 in memory of Mary Lou Chamberlin ’49: Kathryn Jeanne Manion

The Environmental Studies Award, to the graduating environmental studies major who, through academic accomplishment and extracurricular involvement, shows the greatest potential for making significant lifetime contributions to helping solve the world’s environmental problems: Amanda Anne-Marie Pruzinsky

The Gender Studies Award, to a graduating senior who has displayed unusual interest and/or scholarship
in the field of gender studies: Kimberly Nicole Pittman and Sarah Janney Hartge

The Arthur A. Knapp ’39 Memorial Prize in History, to the graduating history major who, in the opinion of the Department, has displayed unusual interest, enthusiasm and ability in the field of history: Alyssa Lynne Wagner and Charles August Weisenberger III

The Phi Alpha Theta Award, to a graduating history major for excellent historical scholarship: Alyssa Lynne Wagner

The Norman James Humanities Award for Excellence, given by the James family to the senior majoring in humanities who has shown academic distinction and represents the ideals of humanistic society: James Hoitsma Schelberg

The Daniel L. Premo Award, to the graduating senior in political science or international studies
who shows the most promise in the field of public diplomacy: Antoine Michael Jordan

The International Studies Award, to a graduating major who, in the opinion of the Department, demonstrates an exceptional understanding and interest in international affairs: Kimberly Nicole Pittman

The Tai Sung An Memorial Prize,  to the graduating international student who, in the opinion of the faculty of the international studies interdisciplinary major, has exemplified in an exceptional manner the benefits of inter-cultural education on our campus: Tokikake Ii

The Erika and Henry Salloch Prize, given by the Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures in memory of Erika and Henry Salloch, to the student whose achievement and personal commitment have contributed to the understanding of other cultures: Morgan Lail Phillips

The German Studies Alumni Award, to the senior who, in the opinion of the faculty of Modern Languages, has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement and a depth of understanding in the field of German studies: Melissa Gaye Erdman

The William Gover Duvall ’30 Prize, to a graduating senior who, in the judgment of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, has demonstrated outstanding achievement and shows great promise in the field of mathematics: Amanda Anne-Marie Pruzinsky

The Alpha Chi Omega Music Award, to a senior in recognition of excellence in music: Brian Patrick Bucher and Veronica Noël Spolarich

The Department of Philosophy and Religion Award, to a graduating senior or seniors majoring in philosophy, recognizing outstanding ability in, and engagement with, the field of philosophy and religion: James Hoitsma Schelberg and Patrick Thomas Cannon

The Political Science Award, to a graduating major who in the opinion of the Department, demonstrates a superior theoretical and practical understanding of political life: Lindsay Ann Dodd

The Psychology Department Award, to the senior psychology major who shows outstanding promise in the field of psychology: Isabel Diane Derera and Catherine Teves Petrick

The Virginia M. Conner ’85 Psychology Award, to the graduating senior or seniors majoring in psychology who, in the opinion of the Department, have demonstrated outstanding ability and achievement in the biobehavioral sciences: Melanie Lynn McCabe

The Psychology Department Outstanding Achievement Award, to senior psychology majors in recognition of exceptionally high levels of performance in the field of psychology: Courtney Rebecca Burton

Anthropology Award, to the graduating major or majors who, in the opinion of the faculty and students of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, have shown in his or her work exceptional understanding of anthropology and other cultures, past or present: Sarah Janney Hartge and Jamie Skylar Frees

Anthropology Service Award, to the graduating major who demonstrates the greatest dedication to public service in anthropology at Washington College: Alyssa Marie Velazquez

The Margaret Horsley Award, to the graduating major or majors who, in the opinion of the faculty and students of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, have shown in his or her work the clearest understanding of human social behavior: Jesse James Schaefer and Brittany Lyn McWilliams

Sociology Service Award, to the graduating senior who, in the opinion of the Department and its students, has made, through service, the greatest contribution to the sociology program and to Washington College: Jesse James Schaefer

The Holstein Prize for Ethics, to the graduating senior whose senior thesis, in the opinion of the selection committee, best demonstrates an interest in ethics and the application of ethics to his or her area of interest: Beverly Obenewaa Frimpong

The W. Dennis Berry ’87 Leadership Award, to the senior or seniors who most clearly exhibit those characteristics of charismatic leadership that distinguished Mr. Berry’s service to Washington College: Andrew Francis John Antonio

The Karen Kaitz Emerick Award, to one or more senior students, chosen by the Executive Committee of the Student Government Association, who have demonstrated strong character and good academic standing, and who have been leaders in community and volunteer service: Jesse James Schaefer

The Penny J. Fall Award, given annually by the Washington College Student Government Association to the female athlete who most successfully continues, through service to the College, the tradition and legacy set by Professor Fall. The recipient is chosen for her leadership on campus and her ability to conceive, organize and execute academic and extracurricular activities that have benefited the entire Washington College community: Sally Ann O’Donnell

The Jonathan A. Taylor, Jr. Leadership Award,  to the member of the Washington College Student Government Association who diligently and effectively incorporates progressive thought when addressing the needs and demands of the modern collegiate environment: Brittany Alexandra Marshall

The Outstanding Community Service Recognition, awarded to senior students who have committed themselves to community service: Courtney Rebecca Burton,  
Stephen Samuel Cook, Daniel James Danko, Jamie Skylar Frees, Sarah Janney Hartge, Laura Kebler Kennedy, Melanie Lynn McCabe, Priyanka Deepak Parikh, Leah Rae Sbriscia, Jesse James Schaefer,  Alyssa Marie Velazquez, Amanda Lyn Whitaker.

Scholarship Honors First African-American Graduate, Brings Baltimorean to Her Dream School

Thomas E. Morris '62
CHESTERTOWN, MD – A new scholarship created to honor the African-American student who broke the color barrier at Washington College more than 50 years ago is making it possible for a young African-American woman from Baltimore to attend the college she thought she couldn’t afford.
            The chair of the College’s Board of Visitors and Governors, Edward P. Nordberg ’82, announced the creation of the Thomas E. Morris ’62 Scholarship during Commencement on Sunday, with members of Morris’s family in attendance. Also recognized in the audience was Bethany Freeman, who will be the first recipient of the $12,500 yearly scholarship.  
            Commencement marked the 50th anniversary of Morris’s graduation from Washington College. A popular and devoted educator who taught mathematics in Baltimore’s public schools for 25 years, he died in 1995.
            “The establishment of this scholarship is truly a testament to the life of my late husband, Thomas E. Morris,” said Dr. Mellasenah Morris, a distinguished pianist and the Conservatory Dean and Deputy Director of The Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University. “It was only through a steely perseverance, tremendous initiative and work ethic, and his belief that we can all contribute mightily to the education of young people, that he was able to have such an enduring and meaningful impact on the lives of so many
“If he were here today,” she continued, “he would be gracious, extremely honored, and maybe a bit embarrassed that he was being recognized. He would certainly be proud of Miss Bethany Freeman, and would be instant friends with her family.  We wish all the best for her as she moves forward with the next level of life and education at Washington College”
Bethany Freeman '16
             Bethany Freeman knew, as soon as she started looking at colleges during her junior year at Baltimore’s Western High School, that Washington College was where she wanted to be.
            She applied for admission and was thrilled when her acceptance letter arrived in January. “Just looking at the website, and later visiting the campus – I could see myself there,” she said. “I want to be a journalist, and Washington College has a wonderful creative writing program. It has everything I want.”
            Bethany’s mother and school guidance counselor insisted she apply to four other schools, and she was accepted at all of them. But she was so confident she would be enrolling at Washington College that she attended a number of events for prospective freshmen and even bought t-shirts and a blanket emblazoned with the College logo.
            Then Bethany’s financial aid package arrived, and her mother, Beverly Freeman, realized that she wouldn’t be able to send her daughter to the college of her dreams. “It is so hard to see your teen-age daughter lose her sparkle and enthusiasm overnight,” said Mrs. Freeman, who works as a hospital discharge planner and whose struggle with breast cancer has cost her a great deal over the past few years, both physically and financially. Still, her mother encouraged Bethany to continue to work and pray. “I told her to exercise her faith,” she said.
            “I was devastated,” said Bethany. “I knew I was going to continue to work hard, but I have to admit that there were times when I wondered whether it was worth it.” She realized she was going to have to go to another college, but couldn’t wrap her mind around the idea and make a decision.
            Then, on May 1, Beverly Freeman got a phone call. Washington College President Mitchell B. Reiss had decided to create a scholarship to honor the school’s first African-American student. Bethany would be the first recipient of The Thomas E. Morris ’62 Scholarship, and the College hoped the $12,500 a year would make it possible for her to attend.
            “It was so huge, so emotional,” Mrs. Freeman said. “It was the answer to our prayers. I called my daughter and told her I was taking her to dinner. I bought flowers and she thought it was very strange, but I insisted we bring them into the restaurant and put them on the table. Then I asked her what she would say if I told her she was going to Washington College. She said, ‘Don’t play with me, Mom.’”
            Bethany said it took a while for the new reality to sink in. “I guess I didn’t believe it,” she said. “But when I finally realized what it meant, I was overjoyed. This scholarship is the most incredible honor. I am so glad I didn’t let go of my dream.”
Bethany, far left, with members of  Thomas E. Morris' family: Back row: Son-in-law
Derrick Edwards, son Thomas Jared Morris, friend Tiffany Fox-Randolph, grandson Miles
 Brandon Morris, daughter Mellasenah Indira Edwards. Middle: wife Mellasenah
 Morris, sister Eula Louise Tucker.  Front: granddaughters Lauren and Sydney Edwards.

Bethany with her parents, David and Beverly
Freeman, and grandmother Lillie Chappell.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Filmmaker Rosenthal Offers Advice on Ignoring the Skeptics As Graduates Celebrate Commencement

Banker Seetharaman, Mount Vernon's Rees, alum Whitbeck
 also honored with degrees at 229th Graduation Ceremony

CHESTERTOWN, MD—Tribeca Films producer Jane Rosenthal offered the class of  2012 some lessons in finding their own voices and overcoming life’s skeptics as she addressed the 229th Commencement at Washington College on Sunday, May 20.  A large crowd gathered on the Campus Lawn to celebrate the 325 undergraduates receiving their bachelor’s degrees, and nine successful candidates for the master’s degree.
            The college bestowed honorary degrees on Rosenthal and two other special guests: Raghavan Seetharaman, the Group CEO of Qatar-based Doha Bank, and James C. Rees, the president and CEO of George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens.  In addition, Harris L. Whitbeck ’87, an award-winning CNN correspondent and television producer, received the 2012 Alumni Citation.
            In her address to the graduates, Jane Rosenthal recalled the dark days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when she decided—despite many naysayers—that she could help her community heal by launching a new film festival, the now wildly successful Tribeca Film Festival. “People said, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Do you have the money?’ ‘You’re crazy.’ ”
            She had heard similar comments more than a decade earlier when she left a successful career as a Hollywood executive and moved to New York to start Tribeca Films with actor Robert DeNiro. But in the wake of 9/11 she felt strongly that “New York needed movies more than ever—the sense of community and hope that movies can bring. So Robert DeNiro and I, along with my husband Craig, decided to forge ahead, because we cared.”
            “It’s only if you care deeply about things that matter that you will be brave enough to do what you know is right for you. So how will you deal with the naysayers in your lives?” she asked the graduates. “Learn how to simply say, ‘Thank you for your opinion’—NEXT! … And if there is something in life you truly care about and know you must try—a career, a relationship, a social issue, a movie, a film festival—learn how to say ‘No is not an option.’”
            Rosenthal also advised the young graduates to make wisdom a lifelong pursuit.  “Cultivate every part of yourself—your left brain and your right brain, your empathy and your sense of justice, your people skills and your hard skills, and your daydreaming skills. Because each of these will serve you in unexpected ways along your journey.” Don’t let today’s smart devices and social media be a substitute for real life, she added. “Make time for meandering conversations and true intimacy. It’s only by unplugging that we truly connect with ourselves.”
Alumni Citation recipient Harris Whitbeck '87 with President
 Reiss and Alumni Board Chair Timothy Reath '96.
            President Reiss addressed similar themes in his opening remarks, urging the graduates to preserve space in their fast-paced lives to ponder, reflect and rest. “You have been taught at Washington College to be deliberate and reflective in your approach. Why stop that habit just as you enter the workforce? … It is only in moments of reflection that we can sort through the blizzard of data and find nuggets of meaning,” he continued. “Technology will take your generation places we can’t imagine. But technology is not the destination. You, your mind, your clarity of thought and patient listening to the inner voice that speaks to what is right and wrong—what we call moral courage—this is and will always remain the destination.”
            Alumni Citation recipient Harris Whitbeck has won major awards for his coverage of natural disasters and wars around the globe. More recently he launched a television production company in his native Guatemala to target social problems and showcase creative solutions and inspirational stories. In accepting the Citation for Excellence from the Alumni Association, Whitbeck, who also hosts The Amazing Race Latinoamerica, credited Washington College for teaching him to be aware, to be open, to listen—skills that helped him on his personal and professional journey. “So graduates, remember that you are taking away tools that will help you think,” he advised. “The next 25 years are going to fly by for you. So live them with integrity, but also with intensity. And have fun.”
Mount Vernon's top executive James C. Rees IV listens as President
Reiss reads the citation for his honorary Doctor of Letters degree. 
            As recipient of an honorary Doctor of Letters degree, Mount Vernon executive James C. Rees was lauded for three decades of stellar service and leadership at America’s most visited historic home. Through his fundraising, vision and educational efforts, he has elevated Mount Vernon into a living monument whose buildings and grounds interpret the nation’s first president through a vivid 18th century lens. Rees collaborated with Washington College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute to create the George Washington Book Prize, a $50,000 award that recognizes the best work on the Revolutionary era. In accepting his degree Rees pictured George Washington “somewhere looking down, saying one of the smartest things he ever did was help start this college.” President Reiss gave Rees a framed copy of the honorary degree Washington College presented to George Washington in 1789, along with General Washington’s response.
 Doha Bank's Raghavan Seetharaman
shares life lessons with the graduates. 
            The man who transformed Doha Bank into the fastest growing bank in the Middle East shared stories from his youth to give the graduates a glimpse of the grit, pluck and determination that fueled his rise from a financially strapped family in India to the top echelon of international finance. Raghavan Seetharaman, who received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Washington College, stressed the importance of not just knowledge and skills, but also hard work, determination and teamwork. He recalled how, as a young man who already knew the value of a good education but whose  family could not afford the tuition at the best high school in his area, he accepted a special challenge from the school’s headmaster: free tuition, room and board if he came in first in all his examinations. He not only met that goal but also worked in a supermarket after class to help support his family. The kinds of commitment and compassion we show to our families should carry over to the commitment and care we give to society, he told the audience:  “We need to leave a better world and also to leave better citizens.”       
Ian Holstrom speaks on behalf of
the Class of 2012.
            The student elected to speak on behalf of the student body was Ian Edward Holstrom, an economics major from New Hope, Pa., who led the Honor Board for three of his years on campus.  Yes, the campus is beautiful, he noted, but it is people that make Washington College distinctive: “the students you talk to for hours, the passionate faculty that make you wish you had started taking drama classes earlier in college, or the adviser who welcomes you into his office just to talk about cars. It’s the staff members who never forget your name,” he added, “and the community members that are just so excited to have you in town.”
            The Class of 2012 will leave a part of themselves on campus, Holstrom assured his  classmates, and their alma mater will always travel with them. “In fact, that new, funny feeling in all our hearts today? That’s just Washington College settling in, getting ready to come along for the ride.” 
 Sue Matthews '75, mother of graduate Garrett Matthews '12,  finishes a rousing a cappella rendition of the National Anthem 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sophie Kerr Prize for Literary Promise Goes to Writer with Passion for Character, Connections

A happily surprised winner. Photograph by Kelly Neal.
NEW YORK—A short-story writer dedicated to giving authentic voice to characters as they try to connect with the people closest to them is the 2012 winner of the nation’s largest student literary award. Washington College will award the Sophie Kerr Prize to Kathryn J.  Manion at commencement May 20 in the form of a check for $58,274. 
        Manion and four other Prize finalists read their poetry and fiction aloud Tuesday night, May 15, at a private event in midtown Manhattan and then watched internationally celebrated novelist Colum McCann open an envelope and announce her name as the 2012 winner.
        For 44 years, the Sophie Kerr Prize has gone to the graduating senior at Washington College who demonstrates the greatest literary ability and promise. The other four finalists — Natalie L. Butz of Falls Church, Va., Douglas S. Carter, Jr. of Pasadena, Md., Maria N. Queen of Hagerstown, Md., and Erica A. Walburg of Pewaukee, Wis.—had submitted strong portfolios of poetry, essays, fiction and scholarship to rise to the top of the 35 seniors vying for this year’s prize. “It was an especially strong year for our student writers,” says English professor Kathryn Moncrief, chair of the 14-member Sophie Kerr Committee that judges the competition.  “We could easily have doubled the number of finalists.”
        But Manion, an English major from Clarksville, Md., took the prize with her submission of four short stories she considers works in progress, and excerpts of her thesis on the role of letter writing in literature—a study that drew from the novels of Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, George Eliot and Emily Bronte.
        The central characters of Manion’s fiction are mostly young adults in unsatisfying or damaging relationships. In one short story, an insecure college freshman yearns for a more meaningful relationship with his mother as he navigates issues of sexuality and social life.       In another, a former spelling bee champion is interrogated about the murder of his abusive father.
         “Characters and character development can bring the simplest plot or most descriptive setting to life, and they can make or break a story,” Manion writes in the introduction to the portfolio she submitted for the Prize. “I have found that finding a voice, whether a character’s or my own, can be one of the most challenging parts of the creative process.”
        She’s meeting the challenge, says Washington College English professor Bob Mooney, a member of the Sophie Kerr Committee. “There are flashes of brilliance in her ability to create voice keenly appropriate to the story in progress.” 
        “Katie excels as both a critical and a creative writer, and her scholarship and her fiction display an intensity of purpose,” adds Moncrief, a Shakespeare scholar who chairs the English Department.  “She has a terrific work ethic and is courageous and persistent in taking on difficult subjects. She is always willing to grow and develop as a writer, and her fiction is fun to read, full of wonderful surprises.” 
        Manion, who minors in Creative Writing and Anthropology, has been a leader in the community of student writers at Washington College. She has been at the helm of the Writers’ Union, a student run group that gathers at the Rose O'Neill Literary House for workshops, readings and social events and publishes an online literary journal. She also participated in the Writers’ Theater and edited copy for the campus literary magazine, The Collegian.
        The Sophie Kerr Prize is the namesake of an Eastern Shore woman who forged a successful career in the New York publishing world. Born in Denton, Md., in 1880, she graduated from Hood College and worked as the women’s page editor at two Pittsburgh newspapers before moving to New York and becoming managing editor of the Woman’s Home Companion. A prolific writer, Kerr wrote 23 novels and published hundreds of short stories in the popular magazines of the day, including The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, and McCall’s.
        When she died in 1965, she left more than $500,000 to Washington College with the stipulation that half the income from the bequest would be awarded annually to the senior showing “the most ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor.” Over the years, the endowment from Kerr’s gift has provided more than $1.4 million in prize money to promising young writers, in amounts that have ranged from $9,000 the inaugural year, 1968, to a high of nearly $69,000 in 2009. The winners have gone on to establish careers as writers, editors, teachers, and marketing professionals, and many have published their work as novels or collections of short stories or poetry.
        The other half of Kerr’s bequest funds scholarships and library acquisitions and brings a parade of world-class literary figures to campus for public readings and workshops. Such literary luminaries as Edward Albee, Jonathan Franzen and Toni Morrison have visited Washington College under the auspices of the Sophie Kerr Lecture Series. Recent guests have included novelists Junot Diaz and Nick Flynn and poet Natasha Trethewey.
Fellow finalists applaud winner Manion after her name 
is announced. Photograph by Kelly Neal.
Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in historic Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, it was the first college to be chartered in the new nation. For more information, visit http://www.washcoll.edu.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

C.V. Starr Center Fellowships Place Students in Summer Jobs at Top Museums, Archives

Chuck Weisenberger '12 will travel to the British National Archives with
the Maryland State Archivist as part of his summer research position.  
CHESTERTOWN – From Washington to London, from Smithsonian museums to national parks, a cadre of top Washington College students will be fanning out this summer to work at leading cultural and historical institutions. Thanks to grants awarded by the College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, nine students will have paid, full-time jobs doing everything from unearthing the identities of 18th-century slaves, to researching a forthcoming exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery or helping plan the celebration of the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.
The students’ upcoming experiences are made possible by the Starr Center’s Comegys Bight Fellows Program, established in 2003 by Drs. Thomas and Virginia Collier of Chestertown. This year, thanks to partnerships with major institutions and the additional support of new donors, the Center has been able to launch a new, greatly expanded version of the program.
“I’m thrilled that we can help some of Washington College’s top students gain the kinds of positions that few undergraduates – or even graduate students – at other colleges could hope to get,” said Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the Starr Center. “It’s exciting to think that for some of these students, including graduating seniors, the fellowships may even be launch pads into future careers.
The Starr Center’s staff networked with directors and curators at distinguished institutions to secure potential positions for qualified students from Washington College. They also worked with donors to obtain funding. Then they paired individual applicants with specific positions based on each student’s background and interests. The Comegys Bight funds will be paid directly to the students as hourly wages for their summer work.  
James Bigwood '12
James Bigwood ’12, a double-major in Physics and History and a longtime participant in the Starr Center’s Poplar Grove Project, will work with David Ward, chief historian of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. He will help research two upcoming exhibitions – one on Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, the other titled “In the Sweat of their Faces: Portraits of American Working People.”
“I’m excited about the work, and the location is unbelievable,” Bigwood says. “The National Portrait Gallery is in the old Patent Office Building and there is so much history there. It’s cool to think that Walt Whitman was walking through those very halls.”
“The Smithsonian is all about partnerships, both intellectual and institutional, and we at the National Portrait Gallery are especially happy to work with Washington College to provide a place for their students to work and learn,” says chief historian Ward. “Internships are mutually enriching: while the undergraduates gain – we hope! – valuable experience at a museum, the museum in turn benefits from their work and enthusiasm. Both Washington College and the Smithsonian are conscious of our role as teachers of the next generation.”
Christopher Brown '12 will develop a tour of
Harpers Ferry National Park.
A history major with a special interest in the Civil War, Christopher Brown ’12 has always wanted to work for the National Park Service. This summer he will be at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park developing and presenting a tour of the great landmark. “I’ll be going to grad school next fall in history with a focus on public history,” says Brown. “So I can’t wait to get my hands dirty and get some on-the-job training.”
History majors Ellen Dalina ’13 and Michael Kuethe ’13 will be doing research at the Maryland Historical Society, most likely on the War of 1812, as Maryland marks the anniversary of a conflict that left a lasting mark on the state. Both Dalina and Kuethe are also recipients of the Starr Center’s Quill & Compass Scholarships. 
Megan McCurdy ’14, a political science major, will work at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on special events, including the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. “There will be a summer-long celebration leading up to one big party on Constitution Day,” she says. “I’m honored to be part of such an historic occasion.”
Daniel Primiani ’13, a history major, will work at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond on an ambitious project launched last year called “Unknown No Longer: A Database of Virginia Slave Names.” He will help scholars comb through some eight million documents dating from the 17th through 19th centuries – including wills, memoirs, letters and family Bibles – seeking the names of slaves and their owners for an extraordinary searchable database posted at vahistorical.org. 

Paul Levengood, the President and CEO of the Virginia Historical Society, welcomes this new partnership with Washington College.  “It’s especially appropriate that the namesake college of the preeminent Virginian is linked with the premier historical institution in Virginia,” he notes. “Dan Primiani’s research assistance will be invaluable as we uncover long-hidden connections between African Americans and their enslaved forebears.”
Sarah Hartge '12 will work
at the Maryland State Archives
An anthropology major who wants to pursue a career in museums, Sarah Hartge ’12 will be at the Maryland State Archives documenting the lives of free and enslaved African Americans who lived in Maryland’s colonial London Town settlement between 1690 and 1760. “It will be a fabulous way to gain valuable research experience and help me figure out if this is what I want to do with my life,” she says. 
Katherine Thornton ’13, a student associate at the Starr Center who is majoring in American Studies and Environmental Studies, will also work at the Maryland State Archives, helping historian Christopher Haley (nephew of Roots author Alex Haley) document slavery and resistance on Maryland’s Upper Eastern Shore.
And Chuck Weisenberger ’12 will work at the Maryland State Archives further pursuing research he began at the Maryland Historical Society last summer, studying African-American Marylanders in the War of 1812. As part of his Comegys Bight Fellowship, he will travel to London with Maryland State Archivist Edward Papenfuse to delve into military records in the British National Archives at Kew, just outside London, seeking evidence of escaped slaves who joined the invading forces. Weisenberger, a Quill & Compass Scholar at the Starr Center, also wrote his History thesis on black Marylanders in the War of 1812.
Along with the continuing generous support of the Collier family, this year’s Comegys Bight fellowships were made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Helen Clay Frick Foundation, as well as gifts from several individual donors.
The National Portrait Gallery is one of the institutions benefitting from
the summer work of some of Washington College's top students. 
“We’re tremendously grateful to these benefactors,” says Goodheart,  “as well as to faculty members in various departments who encouraged their top students to apply. I just wish we could have offered fellowships to more of the two dozen applicants, but I hope that in future years, the Comegys Bight program may continue to grow.”

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Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in colonial Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is dedicated to fostering innovative approaches to the American past and present. Through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach, and a special focus on the literary craft of history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public at large.  For more information on the Center and on the Comegys Bight Fellowships, visit http://starrcenter.washcoll.edu.