2016 Sophie Kerr Prize
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About the Sophie Kerr Legacy: Eastern Shore native Sophie Kerr 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, requiring that half of it annually go to a graduating senior who shows promise in the realm of literature and writing. The other half was to be used for scholarships, visiting writers and scholars, books, and literary publications. Through this remarkable gift, Washington College has awarded more than $1.65 million in prize money through the years, has been able to host some of the nation’s most gifted writers, and has provided its students with extraordinary opportunities to explore their creative potential in writing and literature.
May 20, 2016 Reilly D. Cox, a double major in English and theatre with a minor in creative writing, wins the 2016 Sophie Kerr Prize. At $65,770, the Sophie Kerr Prize is the largest undergraduate literary award in the country. Reilly D. Cox, whose curiosity, intellectual fearlessness, and “lyric temperament” provoked writing described as daring, lively, and passionate, has won the 2016 Sophie Kerr Prize. The 22-year-old from Westminster, Maryland, who began his Washington College career as a chemistry major, then shifted his focus to double major in English and theatre with a minor in creative writing, has won $65,770. It’s the largest undergraduate literary award in the country. The winner was announced at a ceremony Friday evening in Decker Theatre in the Gibson Center for the Arts. Novelist Roy Kesey ’91 presented the award to Cox. “Reilly Cox is a writer who combines formal innovation with lush musicality, tempering both with narrative situation and analytical impulse,” says James Allen Hall, associate professor of English and interim director of the College’s Rose O’Neill Literary House. “Cox’s work draws a chalk outline around a mysterious absence (usually, a father figure) in order not to fill in that lack, but to gesture toward the psychological implications of grief, sorrow, and consolation. His is a lyric temperament that has been fine-tuned so precisely, so uniquely, as to engender awe.” Cox, who served as poetry editor for The Collegian and a scenic shop assistant for the Gibson Center for the Arts, consistently pushed literary boundaries and created award-winning work as an undergraduate. He won the 2016 William W. Warner Prize for Creative Writing on Nature and the Environment, and the 2013 and 2016 Jude and Miriam Pfister Poetry Prizes, as well as a Jacoby Endowment Grant and a Sophie Kerr scholarship. His portfolio for the Sophie Kerr Prize included lyric essays, familial poems, his playwriting thesis, and his English thesis on erasure poetry. After graduation, he will attend the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets, after which he will continue several writing and travel projects. He hopes eventually to go to graduate school for poetry and/or book arts.