Winner of Nation's Largest Undergraduate Literary Prize to be Announced
Chestertown, MD, April 1, 2004 — On Sunday, May 16, Washington College will honor the accomplishments of its outgoing president, Dr. John S. Toll, and Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. during the College's 222nd Commencement. Ceremonies will conclude with the presentation of degrees and academic awards, including the College's highest academic honor, the George Washington Medal and Award, and the Sophie Kerr Prize—the largest undergraduate literary prize in the nation, valued at $56,000 this year, the 37th year that the prize has been awarded.
Commencement begins at 10:30 a.m. on the campus lawn. In the event of rain, Commencement ceremonies will be moved indoors to Cain Gymnasium. Only ticket holders will be admitted to the Gymnasium and designated remote simulcast viewing sites.
While the College prepares to inaugurate its 24th president, Baird Tipson, next fall, it wishes farewell to Dr. John S. Toll, whose exemplary career in academia stretches over six decades. Under his tutelage for the past nine years, Washington College has achieved unprecedented levels of success—greater donor support, a larger applicant pool and increased selectivity, more resources for faculty research and teaching innovations, an expanded physical plant, a quadrupled endowment, and a merit scholarship program that supports more than half of its students. Paying tribute to the legacy he leaves to the College and to the renewed sense of vision and strength that he has imparted, the College will present to him the highest honor that it can give, making him an Honorary Doctor of Science from Washington College.
Joining Dr. Toll, the Honorable Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., Governor of Maryland, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Law in recognition of his accomplishments during his 18 years in public service and policy as a state legislator, congressman, and now governor. A lifelong Maryland resident, Governor Ehrlich became Maryland's 60th governor on November 5, 2002—the first Republican to hold the office in 36 years. Raised in the working-class Baltimore suburb of Arbutus, the only son of Nancy and Bob Ehrlich, Sr., Governor Ehrlich attended the Gilman School in Baltimore, Princeton University and Wake Forest University Law School. He began his political career as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, serving from 1987 to 1995, and later spent eight years representing his district in Congress from 1995 to 2003.
Governor Ehrlich is known as a tireless crusader for fiscal responsibility and accountability, public safety, and improving education and the business climate of the State of Maryland. Recently, he has taken one of the strongest steps forward in Chesapeake Bay environmental policy—the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund. Designed by the Governor and approved by the General Assembly at the conclusion of this past 2004 legislative session, the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund will tackle one of the Bay's biggest problems—overburdened municipal sewage systems. Hailed as “one of the most important pieces of Bay legislation in 20 years” by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Fund will finance, through an annual surcharge to state homeowners and businesses, much-needed upgrades to Maryland's sewage treatment plants, a move which will reduce nitrogen pollution—the most significant factor in the Bay's degradation—by 7 million pounds per year, cutting current levels nearly in half. For this and many other efforts to improve the lives of Maryland's citizens, Washington College honors the career of Governor Ehrlich this Sunday.
In addition to the awarding of honorary degrees, the Washington College Alumni Association will present the 2004 Alumni Citation for Excellence to songstress Susan Dunning Matthews '75 in recognition of her contributions to the performing arts as an accomplished lady of jazz. A gifted musician with three solo recordings to her credit, Matthews came to Washington College from Amstersdam, NY, drawn to the drama department and the small, intimate environment for learning. Here Matthews found a perfect stage from which to launch her singing career, performing with the College Chorus and with “Fat Shadow,” a college band playing original compositions arranged by classmates. Today, she performs in top jazz clubs and festivals around the world, most recently in concert in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and at the Saluzzo Music Festival in Italy. With her band “Guys and Doll,” she is a favorite guest artist at the annual Clifden Festival in Ireland, and has presented a program of American jazz and blues in schools in Hungary, by invitation of the Fulbright Commission. Among her performance credits are featured soloist with the Canadian Calgary Philharmonic, the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Showcase, and the Seventh Annual Cabaret Convention held at New York City's Town Hall.