The mere opening of an envelope changed the life of Washington College graduating senior Elyie Sasajima last Friday night.
The envelope, unsealed by Washington College President Michael Sosulski, held a check for $80,000, this year’s annual sum for the Sophie Kerr Prize, the largest undergraduate award in the country given to a graduating senior showing the “ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor.” The award is larger than the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Ward combined.
Sasajima is the 55th recipient of the prize first given in 1968 as stipulated by Sophie Kerr’s will and part of the larger endowment used for nurturing the literary environment at the College by funding visiting writers, underwriting student publications, offering scholarships, and buying books.
Sasajima, from Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, found her way to Washington College when a family member and alumnus recommended that the recent high school graduate consider applying for a Sophie Kerr Scholarship to attend the Cherry Tree Writers Workshop.
She received the scholarship, attended the workshop, and immediately felt drawn to the College’s literary atmosphere.
For four years, Sasajima immersed herself as an English major with minors in Creative Writing, Journalism Editing & Publishing, and Medieval & Early Modern Studies, along with evaluating poetry submissions for Washington College’s literary journal, Cherry Tree, and editing Collegian, the student-run literary and art journal.
Sasajimi plans to continue working as an intern at Alan Squire Publishing in Bethesda, a job she started during her last semester at college while she considers graduate degree programs abroad.
The Spy interviewed the young writer minutes after the award ceremony.
This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more about the Sophie Kerr legacy, go here.