History major Faith Stahl ’19 took first place in stiff competition for a $25,000 scholarship from the Saint Andrew’s Society of Philadelphia to study in Scotland.
Eighteen-year-old Faith Stahl has never been abroad, but she can’t wait to visit the home of her Celtic ancestors so she can delve more deeply into the history of the Tudor dynasty that has fascinated her since childhood.
Stahl grew up in Minnesota, where Swedish traditions overshadow any Anglophile affections a young girl might harbor after reading the works of Shakespeare, Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis. She and her three siblings were home-schooled, “so we got to do and see a lot of things that helped me connect to people of different ages.”
Stahl also enjoyed the freedom to explore topics that piqued her interest. For her, that was the Tudor dynasty (1485-1603), when Tudor monarchs from Henry VII to Elizabeth I ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms.
“Great Britain has a deeper and more intricate history than we have here in the United States,” says Stahl. “I’m very interested in that era.” And because of her poise and her grasp of British history, it was relatively easy during the interview process, she says, to converse with “11 men in kilts.”
The St. Andrew’s delegation of Scotsmen shared Stahl’s enthusiasm for the Tudor period and then lobbed an open-ended question whose answer likely sealed their decision to rank her first among applicants from participating schools on the East Coast.
“They asked me to compare the War of the Roses to the political climate in the United States,” Stahl recalls. “I was thrown off initially because the War of the Roses reference was a small part of my application essay, but I managed to pull it together and talk about the chaotic climate in Washington. They seemed pleased to see that I could connect something from the past with something from the present.”
Comparing certain characters during the War to specific people in Washington, Stahl discussed how the Yorkist and Lancastrian houses reflected the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively. Once Edward IV took the throne, she says, the Yorks split into further factions just as the Republicans did when Trump gained the party nomination.
In the search for colleges with strong history programs, Stahl found Washington College, “applied on a lark,” and enrolled last fall from Rochester Community & Technical College in Minnesota, where she earned college credits as a high school student. Awarded a Presidential Fellows scholarship, she began taking German (“because Old English is Latin- and German-based”), got involved in the theater department, and began working in the Washington College Archives after taking Heather Calloway’s pre-orientation program, “Washington’s Secret History.” The art history minor created a database of digital portraits found on campus and began organizing alumni files from the 1800s.
“She has found several treasures among the alumni records,” says Calloway. “With each photo or fun fact, she shares her finds with me and the other assistants. Working with her renews my appreciation for what I do. In my 20 years of working with college students, Faith is by far the most talented student I’ve been fortunate to work with.”
Her thesis advisor, Janet Sorrentino, is also impressed with this young historian, and urged her departmental colleagues to award her the 2017 Guy Goodfellow Scholarship to help fund her research efforts. “She is bright and articulate, with a purpose and focus remarkable for someone starting out,” says Sorrentino. While abroad, Stahl will visit the National Archives in Richmond, England to study Henry VIII’s personal papers. and become a reader in the British Library to conduct further primary research. To understand the spaces out of which the Tudors operated, she will also visit Hampton Court, Hever Castle, and the Tower of London, among other locations.
As the first-place scholarship winner, Stahl had her pick of four Scottish universities; in September, she’ll begin her year-long studies at University of St. Andrews, which should position her well to get into the graduate school of her choice — either Oxford of Cambridge — and then launch her career in museum curation.
In addition to taking every available class on the Tudors, Stahl expects to make frequent visits to London to attend the Royal Opera, the Royal Ballet, and Globe Theatre. There also happens to be an archive at University of St. Andrews.
And when she returns to campus in 2018, Stahl will have all of the research she needs to complete her senior thesis, focused on the ways the Tudor dynasty legitimized their reign on the English throne.
“Faith has been a revelation,” says Ken Miller, another of her history professors. “While only a sophomore, she possesses historical skills that — by all rights — she shouldn’t yet possess. It’s remarkable. I expect great things from her in the years ahead.”