Winner of Nation's Largest Undergraduate Literary Prize To Be Announced
Chestertown, MD, April 18, 2005 — In recognition of their outstanding accomplishments and careers, retired Brigadier General (AUS) John SD Eisenhower and Kweisi Mfume, former Congressman and head of the NAACP, will be honored at Washington College's 223rd Commencement on Sunday, May 22, 2005. The ceremonies begin at 10:30 a.m. on the Campus Lawn. In the event of rain, Commencement ceremonies will be moved indoors to Cain Gymnasium, and only ticket holders will be admitted to the Gymnasium and designated viewing sites.
The College will also award the Sophie Kerr Prize, the nation's largest undergraduate literary award, valued at $53,608 this year. The prize was established by the will of the late Sophie Kerr, a writer from Denton, Md., whose generosity has done so much to enrich the College's literary culture. When she died in 1965, Kerr left the bulk of her estate to the College, specifying 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” and the other half be used to bring visiting writers to campus, to fund scholarships, and to help defray the costs of student publications. Ms. Kerr was a prolific writer who began her career as a woman's page editor for the Pittsburgh Chronicle Telegraph and the Pittsburgh Gazette and as managing editor of theWoman's Home Companion. During her lifetime she authored more than 100 stories and 23 novels. During the 38 years that the Sophie Kerr Prize has been awarded, its value has ranged from $9,000 to as high as $65,000.
The Honorable John SD Eisenhower, son of the late General and President Dwight David Eisenhower, is a graduate of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point and served with the First Army in Europe during World War II and the Army of Occupation in Germany and Austria after the War. Eisenhower also served with the 3rd Infantry Division in Korea, 1952-53, on the Army General Staff, 1957-59, on the White House Staff from October 1958 to January 1961, and as the U. S. Ambassador to Belgium from April 1969 to October 1971. In addition to his long career in military and diplomatic service, Eisenhower has been a military historian of some renown, publishing numerous books examining America's strategic conflicts and leaders in last century. His works include the New York Times bestseller The Bitter Woods, an account of the Battle of the Bulge; Intervention! The United States And The Mexican Revolution, 1913-1917; Agent of Destiny: The Life and Times of General Winfield Scott;Yanks: The Epic Story of the American Army in World War I; and, most recently, General Ike, A Personal Reminiscence. In recognition of his contributions to the field of history, the College will present to him an Honorary Doctor of Letters.
Recently announcing his intention to run for the coveted Senatorial seat to be vacated by the retiring Paul Sarbanes, the Honorable Kweisi Mfume has had a long and distinguished career in Maryland politics and media. Mfume became president and chief executive officer of the NAACP in 1996, after a 10-year career in the United States Congress, where he represented Maryland's 7th Congressional District. Mfume, whose West African name means, “conquering son of kings,” was born, raised, and educated in Baltimore. As a freshman at Morgan State University, he became more politically and socially active, and served as editor of the school's newspaper and head of the Black Student Union. He graduated magna cum laude and later returned to Morgan State to teach courses in political science and communications. In 1984, he earned a masters degree in liberal arts, with a concentration in international studies, from Johns Hopkins University.
As Mfume's community involvement grew, so did his popularity as an activist, organizer, and radio commentator. He translated that approval into a grassroots election victory for a seat on the Baltimore City Council in 1979. During the seven years of service in local government, Mfume led efforts to diversify city government, improve community safety, enhance minority business development, and divest city funds from the apartheid government of South Africa.
In 1986, he was elected to the Congressional seat that he was to hold for the next decade. Mfume was active with broad committee obligations and served on the Banking and Financial Services Committee, the General Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, the Committee on Education and the Small Business Committee. While in his third term, the Speaker of the House chose him to serve on the Ethics Committee and the Joint Economic Committee of the House and Senate where he later became chair. As a member of the House of Representatives, Mfume consistently advocated landmark minority business and civil rights legislation. He successfully co-sponsored and helped to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act, authorized the minority contracting and employment amendments to the Financial Institutions Reform and Recovery Act, strengthened Equal Credit Opportunity Law, and amended the Community Reinvestment Act in the interest of minority financial institutions.
Mfume served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and later as the Caucus' Chair of the Task Force on Affirmative Action. In his last term in Congress, he was appointed the Vice-Chairman for Communications by the House Democratic Caucus. During his tenure as president and CEO of the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization, Mfume raised the standards and expectations of NAACP branches nationwide and worked with NAACP volunteers across the country to usher in a whole new generation of civil rights advocacy. His six-point action agenda—encompassing civil rights, political empowerment, educational excellence, economic development, health, and youth outreach—gave the NAACP a clear and compelling blueprint for the 21st century. In recognition of his distinguished career in politics and public service, the College will present to him an Honorary Doctor of Public Service.