Thursday, May 25, 2006

2006 George Washington Book Prize Awarded to Stacy Schiff for A Great Improvisation

Ceremony at Historic Mount Vernon Honors Best New Book on the Founding Era

Mount Vernon, VA, May 24, 2006 — The second annual George Washington Book Prize was awarded at Mount Vernon on Tuesday, May 23, to Stacy Schiff for her book, A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, published in 2005. The $50,000 prize honors the most important new book about the founding era. Schiff, winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for biography, tells the story of the eight years Benjamin Franklin spent in France beginning in 1776 wooing French support for the American War for Independence.

"In this time of renewed interest in the founding period, it is especially gratifying to be recognized for my efforts to bring a little-known chapter of Ben Franklin's life to light," said Schiff. "To receive this significant award at the home of another illustrious founder is a true honor."

Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York City, and the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association collaborated in 2005 to create the prize, awarded in its inaugural year to Ron Chernow for Alexander Hamilton. At $50,000 the George Washington Book Prize is one of the most generous book awards in the United States.

In A Great Improvisation, Schiff draws from new and not widely known sources to illuminate the least-explored part of Franklin's life. She brings to the surface an unfamiliar chapter of the Revolution, a tale of American infighting, and the backroom dealings at Versailles that would propel George Washington from near decimation at Valley Forge to victory at Yorktown. A particularly human and yet fiercely determined Founding Father emerges as readers get a sense of how fragile, improvisational, and international was our country's bid for independence.

"In sparkling prose, burnished to a high gloss, Stacy Schiff tells the tale of Benjamin Franklin in Paris with piquant humor, outrageous anecdotes worthy of the finest French farce, and a wealth of lapidary observations... C'est magnifique," said last year's prize winner Chernow.

The event at Mount Vernon, complete with fireworks and candlelit tours of Washington's Mansion, also celebrated the works of the two other finalists before an audience of guests from political, academic, and diplomatic arenas. Finalists were Edward Lengel for General George Washington: A Military Life and Stanley Weintraub for Iron Tears: America's Battle for Freedom, Britain's Quagmire: 1775-1783. The books were selected by a three-person jury of early-American history scholars: Carol Berkin of Baruch College, City University of New York; Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute; and Gordon Wood of Brown University.

"In each work selected, the jury saw refreshing perspectives on our nation's founding era," said Ted Widmer, Director of Washington College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, which administers the prize.

"This prize is a tremendous way to recognize exceptional scholarship on perhaps the greatest period in American history," said James Basker, President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

On Wednesday, May 24, Schiff delivered a lecture about Franklin for a younger audience, more than 100 students from School Without Walls, a high school based on the campus of George Washington University. School Without Walls is the only Gilder Lehrman history school in the District of Columbia.

Schiff is the author of Véra, which won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for biography, and Saint-Exupéry, a finalist for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was a Director's Fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. Schiff lives with her husband and three children in New York City.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Caplin, Matthews Exhort Grads: "Get In the Game"

Chestertown, MD, May 21, 2006 — At one end of the spectrum was Mortimer Caplin, a corporate tax attorney and World War II veteran who landed on Omaha Beach. At the other was Chris Matthews, a fast-talking television journalist who, during the 1960s, served in the Peace Corps in Swaziland, teaching business classes and exploring remote villages on a Suzuki motorbike.

Caplin graduated from University of Virginia School of Law hours after Hitler and Mussolini invaded France. He and many of his classmates soon headed off to war. Matthews, the host of MSNBC's Hardball, graduated from Holy Cross College at the height of the 1960s and set out on wild, youthful adventures that shaped who he is today.

Despite their generational differences, their messages to Washington College's Class of 2006 were similar: "Get involved."

Caplin, who has devoted much of his life to public service, urged the graduates to aspire to be public citizens—to vote, to contact elected officials directly, to give some thought to public service. "This is the people's government and you are in a position to contribute to the common good. Imagine," he said, "what Paul Revere could have done with an e-mail account and a cell phone."

Matthews told the 318 graduates to "go do something a little wild and crazy before you knuckle down and start chasing the buck, because whatever you do in your 20s will have a lot to do with who you become. Be true to your ideals." And when the time goes to get that job, he said it's not whom you know but whom you get to know, that matters.

"Get yourself in the game. Just go where the game is played and find out how to get into the game. Learn the lingo, the manners, the culture, the jazz of the game you want to play.

"There's a false assumption out there that talent will be recognized. Don't believe it," Matthews continued. "The job goes to the person who is standing right there."

Caplin and Matthews were each presented with honorary degrees—doctor of laws and doctor of letters respectively.

As part of the May 21st Commencement ceremonies, the College recognized Jean-Francois Seznec '70 with the Alumni Citation for Excellence. An expert in the political economy of the Persian Gulf, Seznec teaches at Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies and at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. With more than 25 years of experience in international banking and finance—ten of which were spent in the Middle East—Dr. Seznec is a frequent commentator in national and foreign media.

He shared a remarkable story of a lost family heirloom that was returned to him during Reunion Weekend—reason enough, he said, to keep returning to "this jewel of a place."

As is tradition at Washington College, Commencement concluded with the awarding of eight distinguished senior honors and prizes.

The George Washington Medal and Award, given to the senior demonstrating the greatest promise of understanding and realizing in life and work the ideals of a liberal education, went to Brenna Schneider, an international studies major with a minor in economics. Schneider, who spent three months in a Burmese monastery and then lived in a Tibetan refugee settlement, is returning to India to work for a non-governmental organization. She also received a departmental award.

The Clark-Porter Medal, given to the student whose character and personal integrity have most clearly enhanced the quality of student life, went to George A. Best, Jr., a business management major from Chestertown.

The Sophie Kerr Prize, valued at $55,906 this year, was awarded to Marshall Shord, an English major from Berlin, MD. Shord was selected to win the largest undergraduate literary prize in the country based upon the strength of his critical thesis examining three novels of Thomas Pynchon, along with a portfolio of essays, stories and poems.

The Henry W. C. Catlin 1894 Medal, given to a senior man outstanding in the qualities of scholarship, character, leadership and campus citizenship, went to Timothy Kerr, a history major.

The Eugene B. Casey Medal, given to a senior woman outstanding in the qualities of scholarship, character, leadership and campus citizenship, went to Sarah McCloskey, anthropology major. McCloskey, who graduated first in her class, also received the Anthropology Award, the Lambda Alpha Gamma Senior Award and the Margaret Horsley Award.

The Louis L. Goldstein '35 Award, given to a graduating senior with unusual interest, enthusiasm and potential in the field of public affairs, went to C. Michael Shaffer, a political science major. He also won the Jonathan A. Taylor Jr. Leadership Award.

Marian F. Royer, a biology major, received the Jane Huston Goodfellow Memorial Prize, in recognition of her scholastic excellence and her abiding appreciation of the arts and humanities.

The Gold Pentagon Awards, given by the Omicron Delta Kappa Society in recognition of meritorious service to Washington College, went to Jim Siemen, professor of psychology, and Brooke Burkett, a biology major from Avon Lake, OH.

Maryland College Awards Nation's Largest Undergraduate Literary Prize at 224th Commencement

21-Year-Old Senior from Berlin, MD, Wins $55,907 for Critical Writing and Poetry

Chestertown, MD, May 21, 2006 — Most college seniors will look back on their graduation ceremony as a day of pomp and circumstance culminating in a handshake and a diploma. For Marshall Shord, 21, a Washington College English major from Berlin, Maryland, the ceremony brought another reward: a check for $55,907. Shord's critical thesis on Thomas Pynchon, along with his portfolio of essays, stories, and poems, earned him the largest literary award in the country exclusively for undergraduates—the Sophie Kerr Prize—presented Sunday, May 21, 2006, during the College's 224th Commencement ceremonies.

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 224-year-old liberal arts college. The Prize, worth $55,907 this year, is among the largest literary awards in the world. Washington College has awarded more than 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. Shord was one of 31 to submit a portfolio for consideration, but it was a critical thesis on novelist Thomas Pynchon that earned him departmental honors from the English department and caught the attention of the Sophie Kerr Committee. In making the award, they praised his "intellectually adventurous" thesis while also noting the quality of his poetry.

English Professor Richard Gillin, who presided over the committee's deliberations, stressed that the prize can be awarded for student writing outside the submitted portfolio—in this case, the critical thesis Shord submitted as a graduation requirement. But it was clear that the committee was also impressed with Shord's creative writing and especially his poetry. Gillin praised Shord's poems for their "stark imagery and slowly developing realizations that are often plangent and unsettling."

Professor Thomas Cousineau, Shord's thesis adviser, echoed Gillin's enthusiasm for this year's winner, calling Shord's examination of Pynchon's major novels one of the best theses he had ever seen.

"I was especially impressed by his complex reading of these novels as the work of a 'second generation' modernist writer who managed to find highly original ways of imitating the methods of his high-modernist master James Joyce," Cousineau said. "Marshall also offered intriguing applications to these novels of the reinterpretation of the Narcissus myth that Marshall McLuhan proposed in his landmark Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man."

Shord's professors expect him to continue on to graduate school. "In fact, we will insist on it," Cousineau said with a smile.

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.

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 is the first college chartered in the new nation.

In Memoriam: Michael Bailey, Professor Emeritus of Economics

Chestertown, MD, May 21, 2006 — William Michael Bailey, a longtime professor of economics and one of the longest-surviving heart transplant recipients, died of cancer on May 20, 2006. He was 68.

Dr. Bailey had just retired after 31 years as a Professor of Economics at Washington College. As chair of the Department of Economics for twelve years (1975-1987), he helped to shape one of the College's most popular majors. In recognition of this achievement, he was named the inaugural Hodson Trust Professor of Economics in 1977.

After a successful heart transplant in 1988, Dr. Bailey became a community advocate for organ donation and often spoke with students in the philosophy department's medical ethics class about his personal experience of benefiting from someone else's loss and the ethical responsibility that came with that gift. He often said that he wanted to live his life in a way that would be "some small recompense" for the life of the 25-year-old heart donor whose life was lost.

On campus, he was highly regarded among his peers for his keen intelligence, his passion for economic history and his philosophical grounding in economics. On his retirement, students lauded him for his ability to explain difficult concepts; one former student called Dr. Bailey "a man of stories and words." His teachings sparked ideas and understandings not only in the field of economics, but on life lessons as well. Former students paid tribute to his virtuosity as a teacher by naming a classroom for him. In the wider Chestertown community, he had distinguished himself as chairman of the Kent County Historical Trust. A proud liberal Democrat, he served for eight years on the Chestertown Town Council, which his wife, Margo, now leads as Mayor.

Beneath his brilliant intellectual capacity and his professional accomplishments, Michael was a family man.

"Michael's greatest passion, the thing he most liked to talk about, was his family: his wife and his eight children, whom he adored," said Robert Lynch, chair of the department of economics. "When I think back over the many conversations I had with Michael what stands out are his brilliance, his thoughtfulness, his kindness, his sensitivity, his wise council, his deep affection for his family, and his love of humanity. His passing is a great loss."

He earned a bachelor's degree in economics from North Texas State University and a Ph.D. in economics from University of Maryland College Park. Before coming to Washington College, Michael served as a professor of economics at both the University of Maryland and at American University.

Dr. Bailey had served as chair of Washington College's Finance Committee and as a faculty advisor to the Young Democrats Club and the Investment Club. He had also served on the Governor's Council on Libraries.

Dr. Bailey is survived by his father, William Leonard Bailey of Houston, Texas; a brother, Richard Bailey, also of Houston; his wife of 24 years, Margo Bailey of Chestertown, and eight children: sons Joel, Eric, Keith, Colin and Owen; and daughters Nancy, Carrie and Maren, and ten grandchildren. His youngest son, Owen, who was five when his father received his new heart, is a senior at Washington College.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in his name to the Kent County Public Library. A private memorial service will be held on Tuesday, May 23.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

College Honors Chris Matthews, Mortimer Caplin, and Alumnus Jean-Francois Seznec '70 at 224th Commencement

Talented Senior to Win $55,907 Sophie Kerr Prize

Chestertown, MD, May 19, 2006 — In recognition of their outstanding accomplishments and careers, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, lawyer and philanthropist Mortimer Caplin, and alumnus Jean-Francois Seznec '70 will be honored at Washington College's 224th Commencement on Sunday, May 21, 2006. Matthews, who will receive an Honorary Doctor of Letters, will deliver the keynote address to the 310 seniors graduating this year. Ceremonies begin at 10:30 a.m. on the Campus Lawn. Rain site is the Benjamin A. Johnson Lifetime Fitness Center by ticket only.

The College will also award the 39th annual Sophie Kerr Prize, the nation's largest writing award exclusively for undergraduates. With a prize valued at $55,907 this year, 31 seniors have submitted portfolios for the competition. During the 39 years that the Sophie Kerr Prize has been awarded, its value has ranged from $9,000 to as high as $65,000.

The prize was established by the will of the late Sophie Kerr, an editor and writer of serial fiction from Denton, Md. When she died in 1965, Kerr left the bulk of her estate to Washington 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.

Kerr was a prolific writer who began her career as a woman's page editor for thePittsburgh Chronicle Telegraph and the Pittsburgh Gazette and as managing editor of the Woman's Home Companion. During her lifetime she authored more than 100 stories and 23 novels.

Host of MSNBC's popular political talkshow Hardball,Matthews has distinguished himself as a broadcast journalist, newspaper bureau chief, presidential speechwriter, and best-selling author. Matthews covered the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first all-races election in South Africa, and the Good Friday Peace Talks in Northern Ireland. In 1997 and 1998, his digging in the National Archives produced a series of San Francisco Examiner scoops on the Nixon presidential tapes. Matthews has covered American presidential election campaigns since 1988, including the five-week recount of 2000. In 2005 he covered the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

Matthews worked for 15 years as a print journalist, 13 of them as Washington Bureau Chief for The San Francisco Examiner (1987-2000), and two years as a national columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle. Prior to that, Matthews spent 15 years in politics and government, working in the White House for four years under President Jimmy Carter as a Presidential speechwriter and on the President's Reorganization Project; in the U.S. Senate for five years on the staffs of Senator Frank Moss (Utah) and Senator Edmund Muskie (Maine); and as the top aide to Speaker of the House Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, Jr. for six years.

Matthews is the author of four best-selling books, including American: Beyond Our Grandest Notions (2002), a New York Times best seller. His first book, Hardball (1988), is required reading in many college-level political science courses. Kennedy & Nixon (1996) was named by The Readers Digest "Today's Best Non-fiction" and served as the basis of a documentary on the History Channel. Now, Let Me Tell What I Really Think (2001) was another New York Times bestseller.

A graduate of Holy Cross College, Matthews did graduate work in economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and worked for two years as a trade development advisor with the U.S. Peace Corps in the African nation of Swaziland. He is married to Kathleen Matthews, an award-winning news anchor for the ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington, DC.

A brilliant lawyer, a gifted teacher, and a champion for education and the arts, Mortimer M. Caplin has led a life dedicated to public service. In the mold of Alexander Hamilton, he served as U.S. Commissioner of Internal Revenue with the highest distinction. After military service during World War II, where he took part in the Omaha Beach landing, Caplin returned to practice law and to teach at his alma mater, the University of Virginia, specializing in tax and corporate law. He served on President John F. Kennedy's Task Force on Taxation and, in January 1961, was appointed U.S. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. He remained in that post until July 1964, when he resigned to form Caplin & Drysdale, now recognized as one of the nation's leading tax law firms.

Throughout his career, Caplin has been deeply committed to public service, teaching, and the educational process. George Washington University, Peace Through Law Education Fund, The Shakespeare Theatre, and Arena Stage are just a few of the many organizations he has adopted. He holds the University of Virginia in special regard and under his leadership in the 1990s, UVA set a national record for a law school fundraising effort.

At UVA, he has provided major gifts for the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center and related scholarships and awards, the Mortimer Caplin Reading Room, and the Daniel Caplin Professorship, among other initiatives. Caplin served for 12 years as the Chairman of the University of Virginia Council for the Arts, and now serves on the Governing Council of UVA Miller Center of Public Affairs and the Board of Directors of Environmental & Energy Study Institute. In recognition of his significant contributions, he recently was presented with the Thomas Jefferson Medal in Law, the University of Virginia's highest honor.

Among his many professional honors are the Alexander Hamilton Award conferred by the Secretary of the Treasury; the Achievement Award from the Tax Society of New York University; the Judge Learned Hand Human Relations Award from the American Jewish Committee; and the Tax Executives Institute Distinguished Service Award.

In recognition of his lifetime achievement in the field of tax and corporate law, his dedication to public service, and his significant philanthropic work, Washington College will present to Caplin an Honorary Doctor of Laws.

At every commencement, Washington College recognizes distinguished alumni whose personal and professional achievements, careers, and exemplary lives can be an inspiration to our newest alumni. This year Washington College recognizes Jean-Francois Seznec, Class of 1970, an expert in the political economy of the Persian Gulf, who teaches as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, as well as at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

With more than 25 years of experience in international banking and finance—10 of which were spent in the Middle East—Seznec is a frequent commentator in national and foreign media. His expertise centers on oil and politics, specifically the influence of the Arab-Persian Gulf political and social variables on the financial and oil markets in the region. With the insights he gained as a banker in Bahrain and his ongoing analysis of the region, he now serves as Senior Advisor to PFC Energy, a leading strategic advisory firm in global energy in Washington, DC, and as Managing Partner with The Lafayette Group, an investment firm specializing in the acquisition and management of chemical companies.

In addition to a bachelor's degree in international affairs from Washington College, Seznec holds a master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University, as well as master's and doctoral degrees from Yale University. The author of The Financial Markets of the Arabian Gulf, Dr. Seznec has published and lectured extensively on the financial markets, political climates, and oil strategies at play in the Middle East. Most recently, he published an essay on Saudi Arabia's petrochemical strategy in Worth magazine and contributed an article entitled "Business as Usual: The Saudi-US Relationship" to the Harvard International Review. In recognition of his significant contributions to the public understanding of the complexities of Middle East affairs, Washington College will present to Seznec the Alumni Citation for Excellence in International Banking and Finance.

Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in historic Chestertown on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fall Semester 2006: New Black Studies Minor

Chestertown, MD, May 16, 2006 — Washington College will launch a new Black Studies minor starting the fall of 2006. The program will emphasize the interdisciplinary study of the multifaceted history, culture, and lives of people of African descent by drawing from courses in a number of departments, including but not limited to economics, education, English, foreign languages, history, and music.

Unlike African-American and African Studies programs, Washington College's Black Studies minor will not be limited to a single nation or continent, but will encompass all locales where black people have voluntarily or involuntarily been dispersed throughout history, according to Alisha Knight, Assistant Professor of English and American Studies and the Black Studies Program Director.

"The Black Studies minor offers students of all backgrounds the opportunity to explore and research various aspects of black culture from local, national, and global perspectives," said Knight. "Students who earn a minor in Black Studies will increase their understanding of our multicultural society and today's complex global realities. Ultimately Black Studies minors will be more equipped to contribute to diverse workforces."

The interdisciplinary minor consists of six courses (24 credits). Two humanities courses, three social sciences courses, and one additional course in any discipline are required. At least two of the six courses must pertain to black culture outside of the United States, and students are encouraged to take three of these courses.

Regularly offered courses that apply toward the Black Studies minor include Economic Development (BLS 218/ECN 218), The Contemporary Francophone World (BLS 312/FRS 312), The African American Novel (BLS 319/ENG 319), and History of South Africa (BLS 371/HIS 371). Students may request approval to apply a course not cross-listed with Black Studies toward the minor. Students planning to complete the Black Studies minor should notify the director of their intentions early in their academic careers and consult with the director when selecting courses for the minor.

For more information, interested students should contact Dr. Alisha Knight at A student information and advising session will be scheduled for early September.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Author, Essayist Joshua Wolf Shenk to Head O'Neill Literary House

Chestertown, MD, May 10, 2006 — Joshua Wolf Shenk, essayist and author of Lincoln's Melancholy, has been appointed Director of Washington College's Rose O'Neill Literary House. Shenk succeeds novelist Benjamin Anastas, who served as interim director during the 2005-2006 academic year. Shenk, who assumes his post on July 1, will also serve as a creative writing instructor at the college well known for its Sophie Kerr Prize and literary culture.

Shenk is a New York-based writer and teacher who has published essays and reviews in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Magazine, The New York Times, GQ, among many other publications, as well as in a national bestselling anthology, Unholy Ghost.His first book, Lincoln's Melancholy,was published by Houghton Mifflin last fall and was named one of the best books of 2005 by The New York Times, The Washington Post, andThe Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Since 1999, Shenk has served on the writing faculty at the New School University and during 2003 at New York University. He has also held editorial and correspondent positions at U.S. News & World Report, The Economist, The Washington Monthly,and The New Republic. He has been recognized with fellowships at numerous writers' colonies and arts organizations including the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Blue Mountain Center, Yaddo, and MacDowell, and was a Scholar at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and a Rosalynn Carter Fellow in Mental Health Journalism at the Carter Center. Shenk graduated in 1994 with a degree in history and literature from Harvard College.

"I'm excited for this job because it combines three things that I love," Shenk said in accepting the position. "I love to write—not for the daily grind of it, but for the moments of insight and clarity that sometimes come. I love the company of fellow writers—and, especially, how we can support and encourage one another. And, finally, I love to create and enjoy environments that value the beauty of language, the vulnerability of honest expression, and the search for life's deep, abiding truths."

Since 1968, Washington College has awarded the Sophie Kerr Prize, the largest literary prize in the world exclusively for undergraduates. In its 39 years the Prize has ranged in value from $9,000 to as high as $65,000. The Kerr endowment has also brought a parade of distinguished writers to the Chestertown, Maryland, campus, including Toni Morrison, Edward Albee, James Dickey, John Barth and Joyce Carol Oates. The Rose O'Neill Literary House is the co-curricular center of literary activity at Washington College, as well as the home of the Writers Union, a large and thriving club of student writers.

"I am extremely pleased that Mr. Shenk has agreed to lead the Rose O'Neill Literary House program," said Joachim Scholz, provost and dean of the college. "A distinguished writer with prestigious publications in history and journalism as well as literature, he will bring a wealth of talent to the Literary House and to the campus as a whole."

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Joyell Johnson Named First Recipient of the Vincent Hynson Scholarship at Washington College

Chestertown, MD, May 3, 2006 — Joyell Johnson—a Kent County High School senior from Worton and daughter of Ralph and Carol Johnson—has been selected as the first recipient of the Kent County Vincent Hynson '87 Scholarship. Established in honor of late Washington College alumnus and community leader, Rev. Vincent Hynson, the scholarship will meet 100 percent of Johnson's annual educational expenses—tuition, room, board, and book costs—not met by federal and state need-based grants.

Johnson credits her parents and the guidance counselors at Kent County High School with encouraging her to apply for the scholarship. Although she admits to "screaming" when she first heard the news that she received it, she feels that she can handle the pressure as the first recipient.

"I feel calm even though my parents have said to me that this is such a big scholarship, you are not just representing yourself but all minorities," she says. "I am able to handle it. I don't feel too pressured."

Johnson's application essay examined the life of Vincent Hynson as someone who broke down barriers for African Americans and between people of all races and creeds, a goal that she imagines for her own life. As senior class vice president, National Honor Society president, student ambassador, and active community volunteer, Johnson admits that she likes to keep a busy schedule. For the last three years she has worked as a counselor for Kent County Parks and Recreation's after-school program at Garnett Elementary, putting in five days per week, 3-6 p.m., after finishing her classes at Kent County High School.

"I work with students from Pre-K all the way up to fourth grade and help them with homework, study habits, teamwork skills, and problem-solving skills," she explains. She uses the weekends "to catch up on my sleep."

With a variety of interests from dance to modeling, entrepreneurship to performing arts, she admits it might be difficult to settle on a major at first.

"Actually, so much interests me, I'll have a hard time choosing," she says. "First, I thought I would like to study psychology. Right now I am looking at business and international studies because I like learning about different cultures."

Not surprising for someone who spent the first 10 years of life traveling the world with her family, settling in Kent County nine years ago after her father retired from 22-years with the U. S. Army.

"If there is a student who emulates Vincent Hynson's example, it's Joyell," said President Baird Tipson, who has committed $10,000 per year of his salary to the scholarship fund. "Joyell is someone who sees no barriers to what she can achieve in her life and lends a helping hand to others to make a difference in their lives. She is making positive contributions to our community and I have no doubt that she will bring that same energy to our campus."

Named in honor of late Washington College alumnus the Reverend Vincent Hynson '87, who passed away in August 2004, the Vincent Hynson '87 Scholarship Award is offered to an entering freshman who is a graduate of a secondary school in Kent County, who demonstrates financial need, and whose achievements and aspirations most closely emulate the values of Hynson, who led an exemplary life as a teacher, coach, pastor, and leader in the Kent County community. Hynson, a graduate of Kent County High School, attended Washington College as a non-traditional student, receiving a degree in history in 1987.

At this time the scholarship award will be presented once every four years. More information is available from Washington College Office of Admissions at 410-778-7700.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

$50,000 George Washington Book Prize to be Awarded May 23 at Historic Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon, VA, May 1, 2006 — The second annual George Washington Book Prize will be awarded at Mount Vernon on May 23 at 6:30 p.m. to the author of the most significant book on the founding era published in 2005. Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York City, and the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association collaborated in 2005 to create the prize, awarded in its inaugural year to Ron Chernow for Alexander Hamilton. The black-tie event will celebrate the works of the three finalists with fireworks, candlelit tours of the Mansion, and dinner and dancing under an elegant tent overlooking the Potomac River.

Finalists were announced on February 15: General George Washington: A Military Life by Edward Lengel; A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America by Stacy Schiff; and Iron Tears: America's Battle for Freedom, Britain's Quagmire: 1775-1783 by Stanley Weintraub.

The books were selected by a three-person jury of early-American history scholars that included Carol Berkin of Baruch College, City University of New York, Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute, and Gordon Wood of Brown University. "In each work selected, the jury saw refreshing perspectives on our nation's founding era," said Ted Widmer, director of Washington College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, which administers the prize.

The George Washington Book Prize is one of the most generous book awards in the United States and its $50,000 is a far greater sum than that of literary awards such as the Pulitzer Prize for History ($7,500) and the National Book Award ($10,000).

"This prize is a tremendous way to recognize exceptional scholarship on perhaps the greatest period in American history," said James Basker, President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Washington College was founded in 1782, the first institution of higher learning established in the new republic. George Washington was not only a principal donor to the college, he also served on the governing board for many years. He received an honorary degree from the college in June 1789, two months after assuming the presidency. The George Washington Book Prize is administered by the College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, an innovative center for the study of history, culture and politics.

Founded in 1994 by Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History promotes the study and love of American history. Increasingly national and international in scope, the Institute targets audiences ranging from students to scholars to the general public. It creates history-centered schools and academic research centers, organizes seminars and enrichment programs for educators, partners with school districts to implement Teaching American History grants, produces print and electronic publications and traveling exhibitions, and sponsors lectures by historians. The Institute also funds the Lincoln Prize and Frederick Douglass Book Prize and offers fellowships for scholars to work in history archives, including the Gilder Lehrman Collection.

With the completion of the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center scheduled for October 27, 2006, the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association has pledged to create the equivalent of a presidential library for George Washington. The Association will work with scholars at the University of Virginia Press to place all of Washington's writings on Mount Vernon's award-winning website. "We want to be the first place people think of when they have a question about George Washington," noted James Rees, Mount Vernon's Executive Director. "The George Washington Book Prize is an important component in our aggressive outreach program to historians, teachers, and students."