Chestertown, MD, August 4, 2006 — On September 14 and 15, 2006, Washington College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience will host a celebration to honor Stacy Schiff, 2006 winner of the George Washington Book Prize—one of the nation's largest literary awards. This year's event not only honors Ms. Schiff's book, A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, but also marks the 300th anniversary year of Benjamin Franklin's birth.
The centerpiece of the celebration will be a lecture by Ms. Schiff, "Dr. Franklin's French Adventure," in the College's Tawes Theatre at 5 p.m. on Thursday, September 14. The public is invited to attend and learn how Franklin's eight-year mission to Paris helped to turn the tide of the Revolution and secure strategic allies for the fledgling United States. The festivities that day will also include historical reenactments, Revolutionary War-era music, and other special programs.
Ms. Schiff will be on hand for a public welcoming and book signing before her lecture, beginning at 4:15 p.m. in Martha Washington Square. The following morning, Friday, September 15, Adam Goodheart, Director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, will host "A Conversation with Stacy Schiff," which will include a public question-and-answer session. This event will be held in the Casey Academic Center Forum at 10:30 a.m.
The George Washington Book Prize Celebration is free and open to the public. Visit the Washington College home page at www.washcoll.edu for updates and a complete schedule of events.
In her prize-winning book, Ms. Schiff draws on new and little-known sources to illuminate the least-explored part of Franklin's life. A Great Improvisation also describes a side of the Revolution still largely unfamiliar to many Americans: a tale of backroom deals, political infighting, and diplomatic maneuvering. In Ms. Schiff's telling, our country's independence was won not just on the battlefields of Yorktown and Saratoga, but among the glittering salons and dinner parties of Paris and Versailles.
"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 Ron Chernow, winner of the 2005 George Washington Book Prize for his biography Alexander Hamilton.
Ms. Schiff is the author of Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabakov), winner of 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. Ms. Schiff's essays and articles have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times Book Review, and the Times Literary Supplement, among other publications. She lives with her husband and three children in New York City.
The George Washington Book Prize, instituted in 2005, is awarded annually to recognize outstanding published works that contribute to a greater understanding of the life and career of George Washington and/or the nation's founding era. Presented by Washington College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and George Washington's Mount Vernon, the $50,000 prize is one of the largest book awards in the United States. For more information, visit gwprize.washcoll.edu.
Chestertown, Md., is located on the upper Eastern Shore, approximately 45 minutes from Annapolis and Dover, Del., one hour from Baltimore and Wilmington, and 90 minutes from Washington and Philadelphia.
About the Prize Partners
Established in 2000 with a grant from the New York-based Starr Foundation, the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience draws on the special historical strengths of Washington College and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Through educational programs, scholarship, and public outreach, the Starr Center explores the early republic, the rise of democracy, and the manifold ways in which the founding era continues to shape American culture. In partnership with other institutions and with leading scholars and writers, the Center works to promote innovative approaches to the study of history, and to bridge the gaps between historians, contemporary policymakers, and the general public. Washington College was founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, and was the first college chartered in the new nation.
Founded in 1994, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History promotes the study and love of American history among 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, produces print and electronic publications and traveling exhibitions, and sponsors lectures by eminent historians. In addition to the George Washington Book Prize, the Institute also sponsors the Lincoln Prize in conjunction with the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College and the Frederick Douglass Prize in cooperation with the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University.
George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, open to the public since 1858, communicates the character and leadership of Washington to millions of Americans each year through a variety of interpretive programs on the Estate and in classrooms across the nation. Mount Vernon is owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, founded in 1853, making it America's oldest national preservation organization. The George Washington Book Prize is an important component in the Association's aggressive outreach program, which engages millions of teachers and students throughout the nation.