And the Winner Is…
Gene Sweeney Jr./Courtesy The Baltimore Sun
A Washington College scholar-athlete who plans to pursue a career in sports journalism will take home the world’s largest student literary prize, the famed Sophie Kerr Prize, at this year’s commencement. Timothy Marcin, a graduating senior from Wilmington, Del., will receive a check for $61,192, thanks to the portfolio of poetry and creative nonfiction he submitted for the Prize. He was named the winner Tuesday evening, May 14, at a public event in Baltimore.
A four-season starter in soccer, Marcin co-captained the Shoremen team his junior and senior years. The Concord High School graduate more than proved himself in the classroom, too, joining the campus chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and earning the 2013 Alfred Reddish Award as the male athlete with the highest grade-point average. An English major who minored in creative writing and business management, he earned special recognition on campus in spring of 2012 when he became the first student ever to win both the Veryan Beacham Prize for writing about vital issues in public life and the William Warner Prize for writing about nature and the environment.
The 42-page portfolio he submitted for the Sophie Kerr Prize included a variety of poems whose subjects included teen romance, the music of Bob Dylan, and up-close perceptions of his father’s well-worn coat, and the red stitches on a baseball. His prose included an affectionate slice of life from Camp Quoowant, the summer camp outside Wilmington where he worked as a counselor, and his account of being in Boston during the confusing aftermath of the Marathon bombings. “Writing is wrangling an overwhelming world,” he wrote in the introduction to his portfolio, “condensing it into something lucid, almost inherent. Like a tiny aperture capturing a big blue sky.
Marcin will begin a master’s degree at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism this fall. He served as sports editor of the Washington College campus newspaper, The Elm, his senior year, and last summer worked as a website intern for Comcast Sportsnet in Philadelphia.
The prize announcement event was held at the historic Enoch Pratt Free Library in downtown Baltimore. Washington Post book columnist Michael Dirda, winner of a 1993 Pulitzer Prize for criticism, offered keynote remarks, and Marcin and the other four student finalists—Emily Blackner, Maegan Clearwood, Jillian Obermeier and Bond Richards—read excerpts from their portfolios. Then they watched as Dirda opened the sealed envelope that held the winner’s name and read it aloud.
The Sophie Kerr Prize is awarded each year to the graduating Washington College senior who, in the judgment of the English professors who serve on the Sophie Kerr Committee, shows the most “ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor.” It was established by a posthumous gift from Sophie Kerr, a prolific writer who grew up in Denton, Md., and built a successful publishing career in New York City. Kerr was managing editor of Woman’s Home Companion magazine and authored some 23 novels and hundreds of short stories before her death in 1965.
Over the years, the endowment from Kerr’s gift has provided more than $1.4 million in prize money to promising young writers, in amounts that have ranged from $9,000 the inaugural year, 1968, to a high of nearly $69,000 in 2009. The winners have gone on to establish careers as writers, editors, teachers, and marketing professionals, and many have published their work as novels or collections of short stories or poetry.
The other half of Kerr’s bequest funds scholarships and library acquisitions and brings a parade of world-class literary figures to campus for public readings and workshops. Such luminaries as Edward Albee, Jonathan Franzen and Toni Morrison have visited Washington College under the auspices of the Sophie Kerr Lecture Series. More recent guests have included novelists Junot Diaz and Nick Flynn and poet Natasha Trethewey.
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 was the first college to be chartered in the new nation.