Caps Off to
Each year, a number of
Writing Seminars/Political Science
Louis Sudler Prize in the Arts
Eileen Cunningham is enjoying a somewhat sudden burst of notoriety as a writer as she ends her undergraduate experience at Hopkins. In April, she won the Sudler Prize in the Arts, a $1,500 prize awarded annually to a graduating senior or fourth-year medical student who has demonstrated excellence in the arts. Hopkins friends and alumnae can read the short story Cunningham entered to be considered for the prize in June, when the Johns Hopkins Magazine hits the stands with The Dance running as its cover story.
"I couldn't believe it when I found out that this story was written by an undergraduate," says the magazine's editor Sue de Pasquale, who accidentally came across the story and liked it so much that she shifted the magazine's content around in the 11th hour of its production so The Dance would run as its June cover story. "It had a psychological incisiveness that was really wonderful. I started to read it, and I couldn't put it down."
Cunningham shares this year's Sudler Prize with fourth-year medical student Loren Walensky, who earned his share of the award for his skill on the piano.
Cunningham is not sure whether to be more excited about the award money or about the story being published.
"This is the first time I've been published," she says. "It's all so amazing to me. This is the most encouraging thing that has ever happened to me."
But to those who know her writing, it is only the beginning.
"In her independent study with me last year she was turning in work that was equal to the very best work of [graduate] fiction-writing applicants we were getting," wrote author and Writing Seminars professor Stephen Dixon. "She is a young woman of many interests--politics, psychology, teaching, literature, Irish culture. She seems to do well in all of them; her mind is sharp and quick, and her interests have a great range to them. Her stories, I found, can be startling in their psychological and logistical complexity."
Cunningham says she gets her love for writing from her tight-knit Irish family.
"All the women in my family are storytellers," she explains. "My mother, my aunt, my grandmother. And my mother is an elementary school teacher, so I was surrounded by children's books long before I could read."
She also had a second home, the local library of her Scarsdale, N.Y. neighborhood.
"I lived there," she recalls. "All the librarians knew me, and they would save me books and let me know when anything new came in. I just couldn't read fast enough."
Considering the load Juliette Wells is carrying, one might expect to meet a very intense and frazzled young woman: the senior is graduating Phi Beta Kappa with not just dual undergraduate bachelor degrees from Hopkins and Peabody, but also with a masters' in English; and along with pursuing her Peabody studies in violin, she sings professionally for a local choral group. And is a teacher's assistant in English. But the young woman one meets is friendly and laid-back, with the serene poise of someone twice her age. She seems so, well, normal.
"Trying to find a schedule these past few years where everything fit could get a little hairy at times," she admits. "But if you're doing what you love, you don't mind the work. And for me, a lot of my success came because I sought out good mentors."
Sometimes finding good mentors was hard because Wells--who was a Beneficial Hodsen Trust Scholar at Hopkins and will be a Mellon Scholar at Yale Graduate School_was part of the first group of students to enroll in the double degree program between Peabody and Hopkins. In the beginning, she says, few professors went out of their way to make going full-time to both schools easy on her. But then she also met teachers like English professor Francis Ferguson who helped her win a Provost's Undergraduate Award for Excellence in Research, which allowed her to travel to England to study original unpublished manuscripts of novelist Barbara Pym.
"A lot of people think you have to make a choice, do one thing or the other," says Wells. "I don't acknowledge that there is choice. I want to be an English professor, and I want to play the violin professionally."
Of course, it hasn't always gone her way. In her third year, Wells developed painful tendinitis in her arm and was unable to play the violin. Everything for which she had been working so hard was suddenly uncertain. Her future was in upheaval. And even as her arm began to heal she was afraid of re-injuring it. Her music sounded tentative and, in her mind, a mess.
"But I got counseling for it and gradually I started to assess things differently," she says. "My attitude about my work and how everything fits in my life changed. I began to pace myself differently, I played the violin less, and yet my playing improved dramatically. Finally, I was able to connect my feelings and emotions with my music. Before I was thinking of all the little parts, and it was hit or miss whether I transmitted the feeling of a musical phrase. After the injury, I began to see the big picture, and I was finally able to connect my fingers directly with what was in my heart."
Rebecca Justice and David Weiner make unlikely best friends. Justice is an athletic young woman from 16,000-person Logansport, Ind. Weiner is a self-effacing scholarly young man from the Washington suburbs. Together, they have travelled around the world as partners on a debating team, and last month they won the American Parliamentary Debate Association National Championship, a first in Hopkins' rich, century-old forensic history.
Over the past four years, the two have tried debating with other partners, but despite their different dispositions, when they are on the same team, they bring out the best in each other. And when they are partners, they just can't lose.
"I know that I can totally trust David to bring up all the important points when it comes to constitutional law, for example. And he knows he doesn't have to babysit me when I'm talking about international relations. It frees us up to focus on other angles. People always tease us by saying we're like some old married couple. It's just that we know each other's styles so well."
Now, at graduation, it's like brother and sister saying goodbye. David, who Rebecca says will inevitably wind up on the Supreme Court, will take his Fulbright Scholarship to New Zealand for a year's study on constitutional law before he heads to law school. Rebecca, who was recently picked to be a Hopkins Young Trustee, has decided to work for a few years for a consulting firm in Washington, D.C. before she enrolls in law school.
Other 1997 Scholarship And Award Winners
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