Senior from Bethesda, Maryland, Wins $65,522
Chestertown, MD, May 19, 2002 — the ceremony brought another reward: a check for $65,522. Blackman's portfolio of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction writing earned her the largest undergraduate literary award in the country — the Sophie Kerr Prize.
The awarding of the Sophie Kerr Prize, given annually to the graduating senior who demonstrates the greatest "ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor," has in recent decades been a highlight of the commencement ceremony at the 220-year-old liberal arts college. The Prize, worth $65,522 this year, is among the largest literary awards in the world. Washington College has awarded nearly one million dollars in prize money since it was first given in 1968, most often to writers of poetry and fiction. Scholarly and journalistic works, though less often selected, are given equal consideration. Blackman's winning submission — a collection of ten poems, five short stories, and an essay — was one of a record-setting twenty-seven portfolios submitted for this year's prize.Chestertown, MD, May 19, 2002 — the ceremony brought another reward: a check for $65,522. Blackman's portfolio of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction writing earned her the largest undergraduate literary award in the country — the Sophie Kerr Prize.
"Sarah represents the best of liberal arts ideals," said Professor Richard Gillin, chair of the English Department and of the Sophie Kerr Prize Committee that selected Blackman as this year's winner. "Her mastery of so many different genres is evidence of a wide-ranging mind."
Professor Robert Mooney, Director of the College's creative writing program and O'Neill Literary House, cited Blackman's extraordinary facility with language, artistic integrity, and maturity of vision. "Sarah fictively investigates those quiet and important human moments that define character in its destiny," Mooney said. "In the process she shapes a story that is not only worth reading, but worth going back to again and again. Sarah is an extraordinary poet as well, with a sense of condensed language that is fluid, rhythmic, and on the mark."
The daughter of Dr. Melinda Zeder and Dr. James Blackman of Bethesda, MD, Blackman graduated summa cum laude with departmental honors in English. She also received the Emil J. C. Hildenbrand Memorial Medal awarded to the student who attains the highest average in English during four years of study as well as recognition for outstanding community service. Blackman spent her spring break in Georgia working with Habitat for Humanity.
Blackman plans to move to Los Angeles in July, attracted by what she describes as its "thriving literary industry." She plans to continue her education in literature and creative writing, with hopes of teaching writing not only to undergraduates in liberal arts settings but to marginalized youth, prisoners in state penitentiaries and students in adult literacy programs.
The Sophie Kerr Prize is the namesake of an Eastern Shore woman who made her fortune in New York, writing women's fiction during the 1930s and 1940s. In accordance with the terms of her will, one-half of the annual income from her bequest to the College is awarded each year to the graduating senior demonstrating the best potential for literary achievement. The other half funds scholarships, supports student publications and the purchase of books, and brings an array of visiting writers, editors and publishers to campus to read, visit classes and discuss student work. Her gift has provided the nucleus for an abundance of literary activity on the bucolic Eastern Shore campus.