Talented Senior to Walk Away with $61,000Chestertown, MD, April 15, 2003 — This May at Washington College, a graduating senior will receive not only a diploma and hug from mom and dad, but also a check for $61,000 in recognition of promise in the field of writing and the literary arts. The Sophie Kerr Prize—the largest undergraduate literary prize in the nation—will be awarded at Washington College's 221st Commencement on Sunday, May 18, 2003. Approximately 20 Washington College student writers working variously on novels, short fiction, nonfiction and poetry, will vie for this coveted prize. The competition is limited to Washington College seniors.
The Sophie Kerr Prize was established by the will of the late Sophie Kerr, who began her career as a Woman's Page editor for the Pittsburgh Chronicle Telegraph and Pittsburgh Gazette and as managing editor of the Woman's Home Companion. During her lifetime, Ms. Kerr was a prolific writer who authored more than 100 stories and 23 novels. Her stories appeared in most of the popular American magazines of the first half of the twentieth century, including the Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, Saturday Review of Literature, McCall's and Newsweek.
Born in Denton, Maryland, Ms. Kerr used Maryland's Eastern Shore region as the backdrop for many of her stories. In 1942, as part of a celebration of the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Washington College, she was invited to campus to accept an honorary degree along with Eleanor Roosevelt. When Ms. Kerr died at age 84 in 1965, her will revealed an abiding regard for her honorary alma mater, and she left the bulk of her estate to Washington College. The terms of the will specified that one half of the income from her bequest be awarded every year to the senior showing the most “ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor.” During the 36 years that the Sophie Kerr Prize has been awarded its worth has varied from $9,000 to $65,000. It is believed to be the largest undergraduate cash prize in the country and among the largest literary awards in the world. Former Sophie Kerr Prize winners are now published novelists, poets, journalists, editors and teachers. For more information about the Sophie Kerr Legacy at Washington College, visit http://lithouse.washcoll.edu/.