The Collaborative Turtle Research of WC Student and Professor Earns the Cover of “Animal Conservation”

After Hannah O’Malley proposed that her senior thesis be based on research with Washington College Biology Associate Professor Aaron Krochmal, the results of her original hypothesis and the pair’s collaboration to test it are helping conservation managers reassess the role of learning when it comes to moving endangered animals from one habitat to another.

The results of their study are featured in a manuscript entitled “An Empirical Test of the Role of Learning in Translocation” published this summer in the online edition of Animal Conservation. Coauthored by Krochmal’s research associate Timothy C. Roth of Franklin & Marshall College, the paper will be the print edition’s cover story in February 2018.

Hannah O’Malley ’12 in the field radio-tracking Eastern painted turtles.

For O’Malley ’12, a biology major who minored in secondary education and has gone on to become a key member of Walt Disney’s Animals Sciences and Environment education team, co-authorship of her first peer-reviewed paper “feels great, and I’m very excited to officially see it in writing, (and) that my thesis has a purpose beyond just being my Senior Capstone Experience. I love that it has implications for conserving species.”

Although many researchers have studied translocation—the practice of moving an animal from one location to another to protect it from habitat loss or other extinction risks—this research is the first that examines the practice experientially through the lens of cognition and learning. Wildlife managers have long used “soft release”—giving an animal time to learn a new habitat by penning or otherwise protecting it for a period of time before turning it loose—but this research shows that for some species, even soft-release translocation can only succeed if the animals are able to learn the new habitat.

For Eastern painted turtles, whose migratory patterns and navigational methods Krochmal and his students have been studying for eight years, that critical window of learning only happens within their first three years of life. O’Malley was one of Krochmal’s Summer Research students who had worked with him on turtle research at DuPont’s Chesapeake Farms, a 3,300-acre agriculture and wildlife management property near the College.

An Eastern painted turtle with radio tag attached sets off in search of a new water source.

“This project was Hannah’s idea. She was looking into the conservation education side of things but with a strong science background,” Krochmal says. “She suggested the idea of translocating animals with both a short time window and a long time window to compare their behavior against animals that live in that habitat, asking ‘Can you, as newly introduced animal, catch up to their culture?’ And the answer is no, unless you do it when you’re young.”

These data, Krochmal says, encourage more research into this question for other species that are likely to need translocation. And, it can help conservation managers better allocate limited resources—for instance, they may want to spend their money and efforts only on juvenile and newly hatched turtles, rather than adults, since the former are clearly able to learn a new environment while the latter will likely die in the attempt.

“I remember Dr. K saying, ‘What do you think is going to happen?’ and I said, ‘We’re going to translocate turtles and they’re not going to know what the heck is going on,’ ” says O’Malley. “I had already watched how the resident turtles know so clearly what they’re doing. It’s like us waking up in the morning and saying, ‘It’s wintertime and I guess I need to put my coat on.’ They just know what to do.”

Asking newly introduced adult turtles to learn the new habitat “was like moving someone from Florida up north—‘Whoa! I don’t know how to handle this!’ It would have been cool if they miraculously have this sense of direction without having to learn that, but we definitely saw that was not the case.”

In her career with Disney, O’Malley works with other teams to connect children and families to the global environment, creating outdoor education experiences at Walt Disney World in Florida, as well as curricula and resources for educators. For instance, while working with content from the film “Moana,” O’Malley helped develop an activity packet and teacher resource guide that included lessons on sea turtle conservation, while with the new film “Born in China,” she worked on materials related to education and conservation of pandas, snow leopards, and golden snub nosed monkeys—key species featured in the film.

Her work with Krochmal, she says, taught her that the purpose of research is less to find answers than to learn what are the next questions to ask. As an educator now, she also has realized fully the value of his method of mentorship.

“Dr. Krochmal was one of the first educators who treated me as an equal,” she says. “It was, ‘OK, we have this question, let’s work on it together and see where it goes and where it takes us.’ He would say, ‘This is as much your project as it is my project.’ Over time I became more and more invested and empowered and more confident, and I definitely felt like I was contributing, which as a student you don’t always get.”

See the Animal Conservation abstract here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1469-1795/earlyview

Read the entire paper: here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317719204_An_empirical_test_of_the_role_of_learning_in_translocation

Learn more about the turtle research here: https://www.facebook.com/taskforceturtle1/

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

Mid-Shore Education: A Chat with Washington College’s New President Kurt Landgraf

New Washington College President Kurt Landgraf had been in office not quite two weeks when the Spy staff dropped into his Bunting Hall office for an interview on July 13. In a wide-ranging conversation, Landgraf was frank and ready to ask questions of his own, a good sign that he will be open to give-and-take with other stakeholders in the college community.

As the interview begins, he is answering a question about what attracted him to Washington College. Later, he responds to a question about a recent poll result showing that some 60 percent of Republicans believe that a college education is not good for society. Landgraf disagreed strongly and went on to to express his belief that the liberal arts curriculum helps provide a good foundation for citizenship in a democracy. Click on the picture above to see the video, which runs just over seven minutes.

The new president began with a brief autobiography, not included in the video. He was born in Newark and raised in Rahway, both in New Jersey. He attended Wagner College on an athletic scholarship and played baseball with the Reading Phillies for a while before joining the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam war. After the service, he had a number of jobs, including a short stint at ETS, the Educational Testing Service, before ending up at DuPont, where he spent a major part of his career, overseeing divisions both in the US and abroad.

He worked in the pharmaceutical division and noted that the opioid antagonist drug Narcan was developed during his time there. He spent ten years as head of the European division of DuPont, and was under consideration to become CEO of the entire company. When that position went to someone else, Landgraf was recruited by Educational Testing Services, which at the time was on the verge of liquidation. He turned the company around, stayed there 13 years, and became very interested in education. During that time, he became chairman of the New Jersey Higher Education Commission, which oversees all colleges in the state. Then in 2015, he was contacted about the Washington College presidency.

After the initial phases of the search process, Landgraf was one of the finalists for the WC job — which eventually went to Sheila Bair. When he was on campus for interviews, he said, he asked one young student what was the most important thing he had learned at the school. “Moral courage,” said the student. Landgraf was so impressed that a young person could cite that quality that he decided on the spot that, if he was offered the job, he would take it. That opportunity came this June, when Bair tendered her resignation.

Asked the difference between his former position as a CEO at DuPont and his new one, Landgraf said that a CEO has nearly absolute power in decision-making, whereas a college president is in a position of co-governance with the board. On the other hand, he said, all institutions “are made up of the same kind of mammal;” with human nature the constant.

Washington College has substantial assets that offer high value to prospective students, he said. He cited the waterfront campus, which is currently under development, the Rose O’Neill Literary House, with its strong program of readings and publications; and the Douglass Cater Society, which supports undergraduate students in self-directed research projects all over the world. He plans to continue and, where possible, expand these programs and their impact. Landgraf said the college needs to market these assets to reach its full potential.  These are wonderful programs, offering outstanding opportunities for students and most people

Landgraf is also aware of the college’s relationship with the town of Chestertown. He has already met with Mayor Chris Cerino, he said, and he is planning to attend the town council meeting July 17 to introduce himself. He said he isn’t concerned with past relations between the two entities; “We need to go forward,” he said. He said he plans to work with the Save the Hospital group, to get involved with United Way of Kent County.  It is very important, he said, for the town and the college to support one another.

In explaining the value of a college education in today’s society, Landgraf said that the U.S. depends on three pillars: capitalism, the rule of law and democracy. An educated populace is needed for each of these to carry its weight. A liberal arts education, while it may not appear to prepare students for specific roles in the workforce, is the best preparation for citizenship in general, he said.

It will be interesting to see how Landgraf’s presidency develops. As one college staff member observed, there have been four presidents in five years, with significant turnover in senior staff. The college can obviously benefit from a period of stability, and given Landgraf’s comments on the need to work with the board and his interest in making the college and the town closer than they have been, friends of the college may be encouraged to hope that this is the beginning of a time of stability and regeneration.

Washington College Names Kurt M. Landgraf as Next President

CHESTERTOWN—The Washington College Board of Visitors and Governors today announced the appointment of Kurt M. Landgraf as the next President of the college. President-elect Landgraf, who was determined to be an exceptional and highly qualified candidate during the Board’s most recent national search in 2015, will begin his tenure July 1.

Kurt M. Landgraf – New President of Washington College

“Throughout his remarkable career, Kurt Landgraf has set himself apart from his peers as an exceptional leader and an exemplar of the values we seek to instill in our students, faculty, and community here at Washington College,” said Board Chair H. Lawrence Culp, Jr. “We believe his collaborative leadership style, his ability to craft ambitious and integrated strategies, and his operational experience will be an asset to Washington College.

“We are thrilled that such an exceptional candidate was available to lead our College in support of the groundbreaking work of our students and faculty,” Culp continued.

“I am deeply honored by the opportunity to join the Washington College community, and to continue the work of my predecessors in providing students with the best possible education,” said Landgraf. “To join the ranks of this storied and historic institution is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’m certain that by working with the faculty, staff, student body, and board, as well as others in the community, we will be able to accomplish extraordinary things. And while new leadership always brings change, rest assured that President Sheila Bair’s exceptional work to address the national student debt crisis and to launch a comprehensive campaign will not only continue, but I hope will be energized and invigorated.”

Landgraf is well known to both the Washington College Board of Visitors and Governors and the most recent presidential search committee. In 2015, that search committee— proportionally comprised of faculty, senior staff, and board members—began its national search for a new president, considering nearly 400 candidates and seriously vetting nearly 60 contenders. During that process, Landgraf proved himself to be an outstanding candidate.

Landgraf comes to Washington College with a decades-long résumé as a senior executive with DuPont (including serving as Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chairman of DuPont Europe Middle East and Africa, Chairman and CEO of DuPont Pharmaceutical Company and CEO of DuPont Merck Company), and a 13-year tenure as President and CEO of ETS, one of the world’s leading providers of measurement programs and evaluations for schools, including both the K-12 and higher education communities.

Currently, Landgraf serves as a member of the boards of directors for Corning Incorporated and the Louisiana-Pacific Corporation. He has also served as President of the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, and was nominated, confirmed, and served as Vice Chairman of the Higher Education Commission for the State of New Jersey, the state’s governing body for higher education institutions.

“Kurt Landgraf’s vision of cooperative co-governance will be a strong foundation from which to work together as a campus, and he has already shown a willingness to embrace the Washington College strategic plan. I’m certain his leadership will lend our campus and community essential guidance, and assist us in every facet of operations, from helping fight the national student debt crisis, to accomplishing our unprecedented fundraising goals as part of our Forge a Legacy campaign,” said Jonathan McCollum, Chair of the Washington College Faculty Council and Chair of the Department of Music. “It is a pleasure to welcome President-elect Landgraf to campus, and I look forward to working with him to continue instilling in our students the core values of Washington College: critical thinking, effective communication and deep, abiding moral courage.”

“Kurt is an exceptional leader who has an impressive record of success in higher education and the corporate world. At ETS, he did a remarkable job advancing its social mission, reimagining the future of the organization, and building a strong organization and culture,” said Robert Murley, who served as Chair of the ETS Board of Directors for four years during President Landgraf’s tenure as CEO, and who has been an ETS board member for nearly 18 years. “As a result of his leadership and his commitment to diversity and to ensuring fairness and equity in assessment, promising students have been able to realize their dreams to attend college and graduate school regardless of their financial circumstances. Washington College is fortunate to have him as its next president.”

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

 

Washington College Transition: Bair Resigns

The Washington College Board of Visitors and Governors today announced the resignation of President Sheila Bair.

“We are grateful to have had the opportunity to work with President Bair for these past two years, and wish her all the best in her future endeavors,” said Board Chair H. Lawrence Culp, Jr. “Her work on behalf of both this institution, and the nation’s undergraduate population as a whole, to diminish our national student debt crisis has been remarkable, and we both thank and commend President Bair for her dedication to improving access to high-quality education for all students.”

“It was my privilege and pleasure to serve as President of this historic college, and my time here is an experience I will treasure for the rest of my career and life,” said President Bair. “Being a part of an institution co-founded by our nation’s own Founding Father, George Washington, will be impossible to match, and I thank the students, faculty, staff, and Board of Visitors and Governors for their support these past two years, particularly for our access and affordability initiatives. Unfortunately, this job has required that I be away from my family quite a bit, and I underestimated the hardship that would create when I took up leadership of the college. I regret that I am not able to serve my full five-year term, but in many ways, thanks to the dedicated efforts of our hardworking campus community, we accomplished in two years what would have required five at other institutions.”

President Bair came to Washington College after serving as Chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from 2006 to 2011, where she played a key role in stabilizing the banking system during the financial crisis. She was officially appointed in May 2015, and served as the institution’s first female president in its 234-year history.

A native of Independence, Kansas, Bair earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at the University of Kansas in 1974 and a law degree from the University of Kansas School of Law in 1978. She began her career in public service as an aide to Kansas senator Bob Dole and later served as a commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a senior vice president for government relations at the New York Stock Exchange, and Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. For four years, she was the Dean’s Professor of Financial Regulatory Policy for the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Appointed to lead the FDIC by President George W. Bush in 2006, Bair was recognized for sound fiscal management and for raising employee morale. She was one of the first officials to warn about the damage the growing subprime mortgage crisis would pose to millions of homeowners and the economy at large. Consumer advocates praised her relentless efforts to represent the interests of homeowners, bank customers and taxpayers. She helped shape and implement the Dodd-Frank Act, which gave the FDIC expanded power to “wind down” rather than bail out a failing bank, and created the Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion in an effort to bring banking services to underserved populations.

Bair chronicled her five years at the FDIC in Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself, a New York Times bestseller published in September 2012. A prolific writer, she has been a regular contributor to Fortune and has written three books for children that offer lessons in financial literacy.

During her presidency at the college, she pioneered several student debt reduction programs, including a program to match scholarship dollars to every dollar spent out of a family’s 529 or Education Savings Account, and George’s Brigade, offering full scholarships to highly qualified, low-income students. In addition, she ushered in Fixedfor4, a tuition plan that guarantees entering students that their tuition will not go up during their four years at the College, bringing certainty to one of the largest expenditures a family makes.

Launched in the fall of 2016, the Brigade saw 14 first-generation students complete their freshmen year. Twenty new George’s Brigade scholars are expected to matriculate in the fall. Another affordability initiative, Dam the Debt, is a “back-end” scholarship that helps pay off the federal loans of graduating seniors. Since its inception, Washington College has dispersed a total of $659,000 to graduating seniors, reducing their overall debt by over 10 percent.

The College expects to continue the efforts that began under Bair’s leadership. Her contributions to the improvements in diversity, retention, advancement, and alumni participation are greatly appreciated, as is the contribution she made to help raise the public profile of the College

President Bair’s resignation will be effective June 30.

Two Innovative Scholarship Programs at WC Get $715,000 Boost

Washington College President Sheila Bair today announced an additional $715,000 that will support two of the school’s most innovative scholarship programs, Dam the Debt and George’s Brigade. The additional funding brings the programs, which President Bair inaugurated two years ago, to $1.25 million and $5.7 million, respectively.

“From the moment I became president of Washington College, affordability and accessibility have stood at the top of my to-do list,” President Bair says. “We could not have achieved all we have already through Dam the Debt and George’s Brigade without the generous and far-sighted support of our donors to these programs, who clearly see that making college more affordable for everyone must be a priority, both for Washington College as a small liberal arts institution, and for higher education as a whole.”

George’s Brigade pays full tuition, room, board, and fees all four years to high-need, high-potential students. Begun with the Class of 2020, the Brigade saw 14 students complete their first year in May, and 20 new students are expected to matriculate with the Class of 2021 this fall. The inaugural year of the program saw an 88 percent retention rate. Under President Bair’s leadership, the College’s overall retention rate for first-to-second-year students increased by four points from the previous year to 86 percent.

Of the $5.7 million accumulated to date for George’s Brigade, $3.7 million is endowed. New donors to George’s Brigade arethe J. Willard & Alice S. Marriott Foundation, which committed $160,000; the Hearst Foundation, which contributed $100,000; Morgan Stanley, which donated $80,000; T. Rowe Price, which committed $50,000, and the Charlotte and George Riggs Charitable Fund, which contributed $20,000. In addition, President Bair designated $160,000 of presidential discretionary funds to the Brigade to fund two four-year scholarships.

Since its inception in late 2015, George’s Brigade has received support from a variety of sources including H. Lawrence Culp, Jr. ’85, president of the Board of Visitors and Governors, The Hodson Trust, M&T Bank, DLA Piper, Avant, Bank of the West, PNC, Heron Point of Chestertown, Host Hotels Resorts, Ann D. Horner ’80, Nina Houghton P’85, GP ’11, the Grayce B. Kerr Fund, Dr. Robert Kirkwood, M&A Enterprises, Mr. and Mrs. James Miller, Morgan Stanley & Company, T. Rowe Price, Thomson Reuters, Mr. and Mrs. Michael J. Travieso ’66 ’66,Mr. and Mrs. James Aris P ’17, itBit, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, P. C. Massey III ’58, James Riepe, and Mr. and Mrs. Brian Rogers.

Taking a different tack on cutting college costs, Dam the Debt acts as a back-end scholarship that awards eligible graduating seniors a grant that pays for federally subsidized loans they have taken out for their last semester of college. Since its inception in May 2016, the program has awarded a total of $659,000 to 252 eligible graduating seniors, reducing the students’ overall debt by over 10 percent with an average grant amount of $2,615.

President Bair has designated $145,000 of presidential discretionary funds to Dam the Debt. Previous donors include BB&T, bloooom, inc., TD Bank, Santander Bank, Avant, John and Peggy Bacon, and Philip and Joan Riggin.

In addition to these two programs, the College has launched FixedFor4, which will fix tuition for four years for incoming freshmen, beginning with this fall’s incoming Class of 2021. Last year, the College also announced the Saver’s Scholarship, which matches the amount that families contribute from a 529 college savings plan or an Educational Savings Account, up to $2,500 per year, to pay for their student’s tuition. Learn more at http://www.washcoll.edu/value/.

In addition to these new programs, Washington College annually provides more than $23 million in grants and scholarships, with 90 percent of students receiving merit-based scholarships or need-based financial aid.

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

Washington College Graduates 292

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, encouraged graduating Washington College students to keep an open mind to the constant question of “what comes next,” while knowing that their education has given them the strongest footing from which to answer it throughout their lives.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, addresses the Class of 2017 at Washington College, May 20

“Saying ‘I don’t know’ is one of the hardest things to do in life,” Lagarde told graduates, families, faculty, and alumni during the college’s 234th Commencement on the Campus Green, May 20. “We have all been trained from a young age to have an answer at the ready. But the reality is that the answer is not what matters most—it is knowing how to find the answer that is key. Your education—this wonderful, complex, classical, liberal arts training—has given you the foundation you need to begin to solve the puzzle of ‘What comes next?’ ’’

Although the future these graduates face is one where technology, automation, and artificial intelligence may take over the tasks now managed by humans, Lagarde said that the problem-solving skills, empathy, and perspective inherent in the liberal arts will become even more critical as time goes on.

“Many of the founders of this country, who were lawyers, businessmen, and farmers by training, could also recite orations from Pericles by heart. Those polymath skills not only gave their revolution historical context, it informed the society they hoped to build,” she said. “Your school embodies their vision and has instilled in you a love of knowledge. Success for your generation requires a commitment to life-long learning and an understanding that today is a milestone in your education, but it is not the end. The truth is that college has taught you how to learn, not what to learn.”

“By choosing Washington College, each of you has stood up and said that public service is important in your life. The values of this institution come directly from Washington himself; his example serves as the inspiration for your honor code. You have made a promise to help others and now you must follow through,” she said. “Think about what matters most to you—is it climate change? Homelessness? Improving education? Whatever it is, fight for it.”

Read the complete text of LaGarde’s speech here.

Before the address, President Sheila Bair awarded Lagarde an honorary doctor of laws.

Along with conferring degrees upon 292 graduates, the ceremonies on the campus green included multiple awards and citations:

  • James Allen Hall, associate professor of English and the director of the Rose O’ Neill Literary House, earned the Alumni Association’s Award for Distinguished Teaching.
  • Alex Aiello Roberts, a math and computer science major, philosophy minor, from Bel Air, Md., won the George Washington Medal and Award, given to the senior who shows the greatest promise of understanding and realizing in life and work the ideals of a liberal education.
  • Anna Elizabeth Inserra, a chemistry major from Dix Hills, N.Y., won the Clark-Porter Medal, given to the student whose character and personal integrity, in the opinion of the faculty, have most clearly enhanced the quality of campus life.
  • Alexandra D. Kurtz, of Lancaster, Pa., a political science major with minors in economics and Spanish, won the Louis L. Goldstein ’35 Award, for a graduating senior who, in the opinion of the faculty, has demonstrated unusual interest, enthusiasm, and potential in the field of public affairs.
  • Erika Louise Koontz, of Woodbine, Md., an environmental studies major with minors in Spanish and biology and a concentration in Chesapeake regional studies, earned the Eugene B. Casey Medal, given to a senior woman voted by the faculty to be outstanding in the qualities of scholarship, character, leadership, and campus citizenship.
  • Patrick S. Ginther, of Harleysville, Pa., a double major in chemistry and biology with concentrations in biochemistry and organic and medicinal chemistry, won the Henry W.C. Catlin 1894 Medal, given to a senior man voted by the faculty to be outstanding in the qualities of scholarship, character, leadership, and campus citizenship.
  • Two students won this year’s Jane Huston Goodfellow Memorial Prize, which goes to the graduating senior majoring in science who has an abiding appreciation of the arts and humanities and has shown scholastic excellence. They are Laura Elizabeth King, of Rising Sun, Md., a double major in biology and Hispanic studies, and Ryan Manning, of Chestertown, an English and chemistry double major and creative writing minor.
  • The Gold Pentagon Awards go to one senior and one alumnus, faculty, or friend of the College, selected by the Omicron Delta Kappa Society, in recognition of meritorious service to Washington College. This year they are Madeleine Morrissette, of Arlington, Mass., a biology major with a minor French studies, and Edward P. Nordberg ’82, former chair of the Board of Visitors and Governors.
  • Catalina Righter, an English major and creative writing minor from Manchester, Md., won the Sophie Kerr Prize, given to the senior who shows the most promise for future literary endeavor.

Washington College Journalist Wins Kerr Prize

Catalina Righter has won the 2017 Sophie Kerr Prize at Washington College. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the award.

Catalina Righter – winner of 2017 Sophie Kerr Prize at Washington College in Chestertown, MD

Righter is an English major from Manchester, Md., who served as editor-in-chief of the Elm, the student newspaper. Her portfolio combined journalism, a travel essay on New Orleans, and a selection of her poetry.

In addition to editing the student newspaper, Righter was a poetry screener for Cherry Tree, the national literary journal published by the Literary House Press. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Douglas Cater Society of Junior Fellows, Sigma Tau Delta (the English honor society), and was active in the sailing and dance clubs. After graduation, she plans to look for a newspaper job, she said in an interview with the Spy when she was chosen as a finalist.

Poet Elizabeth Spires announced the award Friday night at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the nation’s largest undergraduate writing award, this year valued at $65,768. The cash award totals more than the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the Penn Faulkner prize combined, according to Professor Kathryn Moncrief, Chair of the English department and Sophie Kerr Curator.

Accepting the award, Righter thanked her family, saying that “that my most true and unwavering sense of self comes from you.” She also thanked her teachers, and her friends and fellow writers, “especially anyone who has trusted me to read a piece of that work.” Finally, she said,  “Thank you for anyone who came today because you love someone enough to tell them to continue to write.”

Catalina Righter rises to accept award as finalists Allison Billmire, Ryan Manning and James P. Mitchell, and Washington College president Sheila Bair applaud.

“Catalina has an eye for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. She brings to bear on her poems a reporter’s objectivity and a journalist’s sense of what makes a story both memorable and beautiful,” said James Hall, Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House.

“Catalina’s writing evinces her remarkable ability to capture both the outrageous and the mundane, and to find surprising humor and beauty in both,” said Moncrief.

The ceremony, which drew a large crowd to the college’s Hotchkiss Recital Hall, showcased the five finalists reading from their work, which covered a range from poetry to political commentary.  (See more photos below article.)

Catalina Righter accepts Sophie Kerr Prize. Poet Elizabeth Spires looks on.

Spires, a faculty member at Goucher College, began her teaching career at Washington College in 1981. In a speech preceding the announcement, she reminisced about her days at the college, with memories of fellow faculty members Bob Day and Bennett Lamond, and offered advice to the finalists. Among her tips were learning from rejection slips and resisting the temptation to lose themselves in the online world.

The Sophie Kerr award is named for a popular writer of the early 20th century, Eastern Shore native Sophie Kerr, who published 23 novels, hundreds of short stories, and even a cookbook. When she died at 85 years old, she bequeathed the College a half-million-dollar trust fund, stipulating that half of the annual earnings go to a graduating senior who shows the most promise for future literary endeavor. The other half funds student scholarships, visiting writers and scholars, and library books.

Catalina with friends at reception after presentation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Nathaniel Philbrick Wins 2017 George Washington Prize

Author Nathaniel Philbrick has won the coveted George Washington Prize, including an award of $50,000, for his book, Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution (Viking). One of the nation’s largest and most prestigious literary awards and now in its 12th year, the George Washington Prize honors its namesake by recognizing the year’s best new books on the nation’s founding era, especially those that engage a broad public audience. Conferred by George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Washington College, the award will be presented to Philbrick on May 25 at a black-tie gala at Mount Vernon.

“To have Valiant Ambition recognized in this way means a tremendous amount to me, especially given the extraordinary quality of the books produced by the other six finalists,” said Philbrick. “My heartfelt thanks to the jurors involved in the selection process and to the George Washington Prize’s sponsoring institutions.”

Valiant Ambition is a surprising account of the middle years of the American Revolution and the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold. Philbrick creates a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and of the war that gave birth to a nation. He focuses on loyalty and personal integrity as he explores the relationship between Washington and Arnold—an impulsive but sympathetic hero whose misfortunes at the hands of self-serving politicians fatally destroy his faith in the legitimacy of the rebellion. As a country wary of tyrants suddenly must figure out how it should be led, Washington’s unmatched ability to rise above the petty politics of his time enables him to win the war that really matters.

“Philbrick brings both careful craftsmanship and propulsive energy to his storytelling—a hallmark of all his widely read and acclaimed books,” says Adam Goodheart, the Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College. “Moreover, Valiant Ambition is also an impressive feat of research: it offers dramatic episodes that have been largely forgotten, such as a naval battle fought by Arnold on Lake Champlain in 1776, which Philbrick turns into a heart-racing adventure story.”

Established in 2005, the George Washington Prize has honored a dozen leading writers on the Revolutionary era including, Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the hit musical Hamilton. For this year’s prize, a distinguished jury comprised of notable historians David Preston, Kathleen DuVal, and Nick Bunker, selected the finalists from a field of nearly 60 books.

Mount Vernon’s event on May 25 will also honor the six finalists for the 2017 prize:
T.H. Breen, George Washington’s Journey: The President Forges a New Nation (Simon and Schuster)
Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf, “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination (Liveright Publishing)
Jane Kamensky, A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley (W.W. Norton)
Michael J. Klarman, The Framers’ Coup: The Making of the United States Constitution (Oxford University Press)
Mark Edward Lender and Garry Wheeler Stone, Fatal Sunday: George Washington, the Monmouth Campaign, and the Politics of Battle (University of Oklahoma Press)
Alan Taylor, American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804 (W.W. Norton)

ABOUT THE SPONSORS OF THE GEORGE WASHINGTON PRIZE

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Founded in 1994 by philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is the nation’s leading nonprofit American history education organization. The Institute’s mission is to promote the knowledge and understanding of American history through educational programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is supported through the generosity of individuals, corporations, and foundations. The Institute’s programs have been recognized by awards from the White House, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Organization of American Historians.

For more information: www.gilderlehrman.org.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Since 1860, more than 85 million visitors have made George Washington’s Mount Vernon the most popular historic home in America. A privately-owned national treasure, Mount Vernon is maintained and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. Since purchasing the estate from the Washington family and assuming stewardship in 1858, the Association has embraced a heroic mission to preserve, protect, and maintain the estate for the American people, relying exclusively on private donations, admission fees, and restaurant and retail proceeds. Through robust education and outreach programs, the Association expands awareness about the exceptional life and character of George Washington, sustaining his legacy through research, interpretation, and public education. In experiences on the estate and through its digital outreach platforms, Mount Vernon strives to preserve George Washington’s place in history as “First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen.” For more information: www.mountvernon.org.

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, but also a member of its original governing board. He received an honorary degree from the college in June 1789, two months after assuming the presidency. The college’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, which administers the George Washington Prize, is an innovative center for the study of history, culture, and politics, and fosters excellence in the art of written history through fellowships, prizes, and student programs. For more information: www.washcoll.edu.

 

WC’s Dam the Debt Project Provides $325K to Students to Reduce Education Loans

Washington College President Sheila Bair today announced that the Dam the Debt program will provide $325,581 to reduce the federal subsidized loan debt of 122 seniors who are graduating this May. The grants amount to a back-end scholarship that will award the seniors an average of $2,640, lowering their average federal student loan debt by nearly 10.3 percent.

“When we launched this program last year, it was something of an upstart in higher education, as no college had done this before,” President Bair says. “Now, thanks to our corporate and individual donors who understand the consequences of high student debt, we can continue sending our students into their careers and lives with one less loan to worry about. Hopefully this will enable them to save more, invest sooner, and have more freedom of choice as they move forward into the world.”

Washington College President Sheila Bair

he seniors who qualify for the program have taken out federally subsidized loans for the spring 2017 semester. Through Dam the Debt, those students will receive a grant from the College toward their financial aid package intended to replace the amount of those loans. As a result, the students will see, on average, a 10.27 percent reduction in their total federal loan burden before they even leave campus on graduation day. 

Since its inception in May 2016, the program to date has awarded a total of $659,000 to 252 eligible graduating seniors, with an average grant amount of $2,615.

Dam the Debt is one of several initiatives that President Bair has implemented since her inauguration in September 2015 to make college more affordable and accessible, and to tackle the problem of student loan debt. Funded entirely by donations, the program so far has raised $1.2 million. Among those who have donated to the program are BB&T, bloooom, inc., TD Bank, Santander Bank, Avant, John and Peggy Bacon, and Philip and Joan Riggin.

“We know that when students are burdened by debt, they delay buying homes, cars, and investing for their futures. This becomes a drag not only on them as individuals but on the economy as a whole,” President Bair says. “Anything we can do as an institution to break that cycle, we are working to do.”

In addition to Dam the Debt, the College has launched FixedFor4, which will fix tuition for four years for incoming freshmen, beginning with this fall’s incoming Class of 2021. Last year, the College also announced the Saver’s Scholarship, which will match the amount that families contribute from a 529 college savings plan or an Educational Savings Account, up to $2,500 per year, to pay for their student’s tuition. And through George’s Brigade, another donor-funded program, high-need, high-potential students can receive a full tuition scholarship, in addition to having all of their room and board covered, for four years.

In addition to these new programs, Washington College annually provides more than $23 million in grants and scholarships, with 90 percent of students receiving merit-based scholarships or need-based financial aid.

Learn more at http://www.washcoll.edu/value/ .

 

 

PRS Guitars’ Founder Receives Honorary Doctorate from Washington College

Paul Reed Smith, founder and Managing General Partner of PRS Guitars, has received an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service from Maryland’s Washington College. The degree, which was in recognition of Paul’s significant achievements as an innovative and creative thinker, was presented to Smith by Washington College President Sheila Bair during a public ceremony on Thursday, April 13.

Paul was recognized for both PRS Guitars, his successful business that has been designing and manufacturing electric guitars and basses, acoustic guitars, and amplifiers for some of the world’s most prestigious musicians for more than 30 years, and also his new cutting-edge company: Digital Harmonic, LLC, which marries art and science with developed image and waveform technology.
“Paul is a remarkable example of entrepreneurial spirit; a kid builds a guitar in high school woodshop and ends up as Managing Partner and Founder of the third largest guitar manufacturer in the US. Many would tell you that the company makes the best electric guitars that have ever been made,” said George Spilich, a professor of psychology and director of the Cromwell Center for Teaching and Learning at Washington College who treasures his own PRS guitar. “Now Paul is taking his expertise in signal processing and pivoting that knowledge into the creation of a signal processing company that has the promise of greatly improving medical imaging. If all that does not merit recognition in the business world, I don’t know what does.”

“I am very appreciative to be recognized by the Department of Business Management at Washington College,” said Paul Reed Smith. “I hope it serves as inspiration to the students, that regardless of where you start, things are possible with determination, a plan and great work ethics.”

Paul joins a prestigious circle of honorary degree recipients that includes U.S. Presidents (including George Washington) and nationally renowned scientists, writers, artists, historians, and statesmen. Paul has visited Washington College on several occasions, offering master classes in music, and performing with the Paul Reed Smith Band.

Aside from Smith’s professional success, he is also dedicated to giving back to the community through PRS Guitars’ fundraising efforts for the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center Living with Cancer program and his mentorship program, which he personally has delivered at dozens of area secondary schools and colleges including Washington College. The mentorship program, which is largely funded by Smith himself, focuses on achieving goals and dreams through positive work ethics and responsibility. Paul is convinced that if he can reach even one student at each program that it is worth his time and effort.