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Sophie Kerr Prize Winner to Be Announced May 13 at Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Library
Â© Marshall Clarke
BALTIMORE, MD—The Washington College English Department will return to the Enoch Pratt Free Library in downtown Baltimore on May 13 to celebrate its coveted Sophie Kerr Prize for literary promise, this year valued at $61,382. The free public event will include remarks by acclaimed poet Mary Jo Salter, readings by up to five prize finalists, and the much-anticipated announcement of the prizewinner’s name. It will take place that Tuesday in the Library’s grand Central Hall beginning at 7:30 p.m.
The largest undergraduate literary prize in the world, the Sophie Kerr Prize is awarded to the Washington College senior who shows the most literary ability and promise. It is judged primarily on portfolios of written work each applicant submits to the English Department faculty for review.
The literary prize was established by a posthumous gift from Sophie Kerr, a prolific writer born in Denton, Md., about 30 miles from the Washington College campus. Kerr spent her adult life in New York, working as managing editor of Woman’s Home Companion and authoring 23 novels and hundreds of stories that were published in the most popular American magazines of the first half of the twentieth century.
When it came time to pass her assets forward, Kerr bequeathed most of it to Washington College, where she had received an honorary degree (along with Eleanor Roosevelt) in 1942. From the original half-million dollars she left to the College at her death in 1965, the Sophie Kerr Endowment has over the years awarded more than $1.5 million in prize money to promising young writers, most of whom have ultimately established careers in writing, editing, publishing, and teaching the literary arts.
Funds from the Sophie Kerr Endowment also help create a thriving literary culture on campus through scholarships, book purchases, and a steady stream of prominent writers who are invited to campus to read from their work and meet with students.
Keynote speaker Mary Jo Salter is the author of seven collections of poetry, all published by Alfred A. Knopf, including the 2013 volume Nothing By Design. She is also a lyricist and playwright, and the author of the children’s book The Moon Comes Home. A former poetry editor of The New Republic and co-editor of The Norton Anthology of Poetry, she is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at The Writing Seminars of Johns Hopkins University.