Maryland 3.0: Checking in with KRM’s Bryan Matthews

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Just a few years ago, the Dixon Valve & Coupling Company made a corporate decision that would have a significant impact on Kent County’s economy and yet very little was said about at the time. The company, faced with growing pains and stiff competition for their range of piping and fitting products, had to make a difficult choice to either expand their business locally in Chestertown or take advantage of lower production costs, larger workforce populations, and reduced taxes by moving operations to another state or perhaps even another country.

This kind of significant call is not an uncommon one for American manufacturing companies. And in most cases, these businesses very quickly conclude that their bottom line profits will improve dramatically by migrating to a more business-friendly location. But in the case of Dixon, which would impact close to 375 employees in Kent County, their final decision went against that popular trend. Dixon quickly made up their mind that they would stay put in Chestertown.

While most communities in America would have held parades or honored local politicians for saving a town’s anchor manufacturing business, the Dixon decision, like so much of the rest of the family-owned business culture, was a low-key affair. Once they concluded that Kent County would remain their home for the foreseeable future, Dixon leadership assigned the task of building facilities for that future growth to the company’s subsidiary, KRM Development, and thus began a complicated multi-year plan to move warehouse, production and administrative functions to new locations.

A good part of that job is now in the work portfolio of Bryan Matthews, who retired as Washington College’ athletic director and facilities manager after thirty years of service to his alma mater to join the KRM team two years ago. In his Spy interview, Matthews talks in detail about the intricate planning required for this kind of major undertaking as well as some of the vision behind Dixon’s plans for their North Chestertown campus.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about KRM Development please go here.

Election 2018: A Spy Goes to Carroll County to Meet Don West

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This Election 2018 profile is the first of a six-part series on the intricate makeup and character of the 1st Congressional District of Maryland. Each month, the Spy will be interviewing different 1st District residents from Carroll County to the Lower Shore, both Democrats and Republicans, to discuss their unique sub-region of one of the largest congressional districts in the country, and the issues and political climate of those communities.

The Spy starts at the westernmost part of the 1st District, in the northern part of Carroll County and our chat with Don West, the owner of a local construction company for 30 years, and current chair of the Democratic Central Committee of Carroll County.

In his Spy interview, Don provides an objective overview of the ever-changing demographic characteristics of this part of Carroll, its political roots, and a snapshot analysis on how the midterm election is unfolding.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. 

 

Learning What’s Important by George Merrill

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One of the highlights of my life is a bi-weekly meeting I have with a small group of elders. We are men and women of “riper years” who, in the latter days of our lives, remain curious and wonder what this business of being alive is all about. Some of us are religious in the conventional sense. Others more eclectic, some atheistic and agnostic, but none nihilistic. The thread that connects us all is a feeling of wonder at being alive, the mystery at the heart of it and as we watch the shadows of our days lengthen, we examine what the afternoon light reveals in the landscape of our lives. The conversations can be moving, funny, or sad, but always life-giving.

For me, it’s an opportunity to grow in wisdom. I once thought wisdom was knowing something about everything. It isn’t. It’s knowing what’s most important.

Dr. Lucy Kalanithi is a physician who has learned what is important.

She’s a lovely young woman who exudes heart felt authenticity. She met her husband while studying at Yale. He, too, was a physician. They married. Shortly into the marriage he was diagnosed with stage four cancer; tumors in the lungs and bones. In a presentation she made in a TED talk, our group watched and listened as she shared how she learned what was important. It was not easy to hear, but her message was clear and convincing; knowing what is truly important is doable, because if we can remember it, we always have some choices in how we live. Making those choices together with those we love leads to wisdom, and in themselves become expressions of that love.

“Out loud” was a pivotal metaphor in how both she and her husband negotiated their lives in the face of the husband’s impending death. The metaphor arose when one day he looked at her and said, “I want you to marry again.” She was floored at the directness, the generosity and love implied in his wish. “Whoa,” she exclaimed. “I guess we’re going to have to say things ‘out loud’ from now on.” And so, they did.

In preparing advanced directives, she spoke of their conversations as an affirmation of their love for each other, something about advanced directives that had never occurred to me in that way. She described how she felt when discussing the particulars in what he wished to have happen and what he would need from her. It was a statement about how neither would have to live this tragedy alone. As each spoke “out loud” the hopes and fears of their hearts, they grew closer in an unexpected way. Advance directives became for them not just an exercise in organizing their affairs, but also tangible expressions of their love story.

A particularly moving piece of their story was about making choices, specifically, within the limits of time they had together. Should he undergo extraordinary measures to sustain life? Should they have a child? They measured the time scrupulously to consider the realities of such a move. They calculated that with his life expectancy, he would be there for the birth for sure, but little beyond that. The decision was made to have a baby and she delivered a baby girl. About the time she delivered, he was failing rapidly. He told her he wanted no extraordinary measures. He asked her to bring the baby so he could hold her. Four hours after he held her, he said “I’m ready.” He died.

Light shines through some people. They transmit the light like saints in stained glass windows. The light can be generated in the crucible of white-hot suffering. Wisdom is refined in that crucible and it is offered for us to see, or in the case of Dr. Kalanithi’s story, to hear her account. She speaks “out loud”, too.

She speaks of a life lived fully not as one free from suffering, but because of it. An adversarial relationship to our suffering is often expressed by “fighting” the cancer, “beating” the heart disease, or “conquering” the illness. She does not see us as victors by winning battles. What she and her husband experienced was the discovery that there were shepherds there to guide and sustain them, not soldiers to fight for them. That is something very important.

Freedom, I once read, is not the absence of constraints, but the art of living freely within them. Dr. Kalanithi goes at some length in describing how living in the constraints of the illness, their oncologist worked with them as a co-creator in framing a medical regimen that realistically supported the ways the patient chose to live the remainder of his days. Her husband once told her that things would be OK. Was that to mean that they’d return to the things had been? They were OK if one understands, as she had come to understand, that to live a life fully, is to recognize that we are free enough to make the choices offered under the circumstances. There are typically more than we first imagine.

The opportunities that we have to compose a life in the face of adversities is getting more recognition. As a society, we’re beginning to accept the inevitability of suffering as a condition of being alive. As physicians, both Dr. Kalanithi and her husband knew this, but she says, “It’s another thing to actually live it.” The other message that we gleaned from her talk was the importance of candor, the ability to speak directly to the suffering and not hide or deny it. What grows from the open and shared acknowledgement of pain, the “out loud,” she describes as an increasingly deep intimacy following in its wake.

I know that everyone in the room that day was engrossed in listening to Dr. Kalanithi’s story. Most had been through significant loses; spouses, children and friends and many knew the anguish involved. But for all of us there was something hopeful in her story. I think it was the thought that when tragedy strikes, we’d remember the essence of what she said. And if I could summarize it I’d say, that at end of the day, it’s loving well that’s most important. The unendurable is endurable if we have someone there who loves us enough to walk with us in the time of shadows.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Food Friday: Royal Celebrations; Fancy or Plain?

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Early tomorrow morning I will haul myself out of bed, and will sit in my ever so inelegant, commoner jim-jams and watch the royal wedding of Prince Harry and American-born Meghan Markel on television. This promising spectacle is happening half a world away in England, but there are lots of American royal enthusiasts. Like me. I will be sporting a fashionable trifle of a hat – a perky, feathered fascinator, which will elevate the plebeian social status I have so far enjoyed as a solidly middle-class American suburbanite, who, despite the travails of our Revolutionary War mothers and fathers, I remain in thrall with England, and the British royal family. I like the royals. They are fancy, I am ordinary.

“God bless us, every one!” to quote Charles Dickens. And God save Queen Elizabeth. I imagine she will be ready for gin o’clock to roll around tomorrow, considering all the last minute antics of the extended Markel family. The queen is probably looking forward to having a big slice of the now-famous elderberry and lemon wedding cake, baked by another California woman, Claire Ptak. (https://gatherjournal.com/notebook/meet-claire-ptak-violet-cakes/) Before the big event, though, the royals might need a good traditional English fry up: a cholesterol-inducing mélange of eggs, bacon, fried bread, beans, mushrooms and sausages.

And how about you? Will you hold out for precious and delicious tea cakes in the afternoon, or will you prepare a scrummie breakfast to devour in the early hours, as the sun rises here, and the horse-drawn coaches trot through the ancient town of Windsor at noon?

The queen and Prince Philip enjoy a simple breakfast together, says BT Magazine: “The spread includes cereal, yoghurt and maple syrup, but Her Majesty likes to have toast with light marmalade, which she sometimes shares with the corgis.” So you can have a rather abstemious meal, like Her Majesty. (Of course, just to keep her wits about her, the queen is known to have a quick drink before lunch – gin and Dubonnet. Imagine how productive you would be in the afternoon if you adopted that regime!)

A more traditional meal is the full English breakfast. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/only-in-britain/the-15-most-british-foods-ever/full-english-breakfast/ This is a meal that will see you through an entire day of royal drama.

Or you can ratchet it up a bit, and enjoy the purely American snack of Cheetos, paired with Sancerre wine. Apparently it is the taste du jour. http://www.grubstreet.com/2018/05/cheetos-wine-pairing-sancerre.html And since you haven’t been invited to the wedding reception, or the after-party, you can drown your sorrows in the $60 bottle of Sancerre.

Of course, you should bake in advance. Undoubtedly the royal wedding cake has been ready for a couple of days, installed in a safe place of honor in the Great Kitchen at Windsor Castle. Feel free to start baking: https://www.hgtv.com/design/make-and-celebrate/entertaining/lemon-elderflower-cake We’ll trot by after the ceremony.

I think my family would prefer the simpler Chocolate Biscuit Cake enjoyed by Prince William as his bachelor cake: http://theroyalchef.com/the-royal-wedding-cake-recipe/ We are all chocolate fiends, and love refrigerator cakes. I wonder if the royals have ever eaten a Famous Wafer Cake – our summer go-to recipe. http://www.snackworks.com/recipe/famous-chocolate-refrigerator-roll-53331.aspx

Afternoon tea at Fortum and Mason is a ritual and rite in London. Social climbing folks not invited to the royal wedding might be hiding out in F&M’s delightful tearoom Saturday afternoon. I hope they have booked ahead. I love the tiny cakes and sandwiches and pâtisseries and all the sugar and jam and cream. I also love The Great British Bake Off. It is the most reassuring comfort food, prepared by the nicest people in the world. https://www.fortnumandmason.com/restaurants/afternoon-tea Watching it takes the sting out of staying home, instead of dancing away with the cool young royals. I’d probably be stuck with Camilla.

Here is a short history of royal wedding cakes from The New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/annals-of-gastronomy/prince-harry-and-meghan-markles-wedding-cake-breaks-with-centuries-of-royal-tradition

Plain or fancy? Aristo or American? Sweet and creamy, or good and greasy? If you tune into the wedding tomorrow, what will you have for breakfast? Tea and toast? Full English? Tea and cakes? Cheetos and Sancerre? Dubbonet? Cold pizza?

Best wishes to the happy couple!

“Love and eggs are best when they are fresh.”
—Russian proverb

Mid-Shore Authors: ​Anke Van Wagenberg on the Weenix Impact on Dutch Paintings

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You would think that Anke Van Wagenberg’s day job would be a serious impediment for doing any form of serious extracurricular writing. As the senior curator of the Academy Art Museum, Van Wagenberg is in charge of the dozens of art programs and exhibitions the AAM produces every year, but also is responsible for the the cataloging and conservation of the museum’s 1,500 objects in their collection. Not an easy gig.

That might be one of the reasons it has taken Anke fourteen years to complete a massive two-volume survey of the complete works of the artist Jan Baptist Weenix and his son, Jan Weenix, entitled Painting for Princes: Dutch Art by Jan Baptist Weenix & Jan Weenix.

The father, who died young at 39 years old, and his son, produced over 500 paintings during their collective lifetime which Van Wagenberg has dutifully documented as part of her own ongoing scholarship in Dutch paintings.

The results of this extraordinary undertaking is finally in print which will add significantly to the art world’s knowledge of these sometimes forgotten Dutch Masters, whose work compares well with contemporaries of the time, including the likes of Rembrandt and Rubin.

The Spy caught up with Anke a few days ago to talk about both father and son and their lasting impact on Western art as she prepares for a series of lectures on the Weenex books before returning for many more years of research on the drawings these two men produced during their lifetimes.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. Anke Van Wagenberg will launch the book’s publication as a Kittredge-Wilson lecturer at the Academy Art Museum at 6pm on Friday May 18. For more information please go here

 

Maryland 3.0: A New Kind of Garage for the Car Lovers of the Mid-Shore

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One relatively recent trend on the Mid-Shore that sometimes goes unnoticed in comparison to the region’s passion for such things as sailing and art, is the remarkable growth in historic cars and the collection of specialty automobiles. From the annual Ridgely Car Show to the fancier Concours d’Elegance, and more recently, the opening of the Classic Motor Museum in St. Michaels, the Shore is booming with car collectors.

To date, some 2,000 vehicles in the five-county area are considered “historic” by the Maryland DMV, and one can easily doubles that number if including the hundreds of performance and other rare cars that are not old enough for that designation.

The challenge for all those car owners is where to safely keep their pride and joys.

For the very wealthy, the answer is an easy one; simply build more garage space. And perhaps for those on the lower end of the scale, its simply replacing the family sedan with one’s beloved 1970 Volkswagen convertible for example.

But for a significant number of Mid-Shore car enthusiasts, there were very few options in-between for secure storage facilitates that would not only keep these unique museum quality automobiles safe but also well maintained.

That was until now.

Just a few months ago, Mike Kealy, owner of Bay Hundred Auto in St. Michaels which specializes in the maintenance and repair of rare cars, partnered with a customer and friend to solve this gap. Their solution is now open for business in the back of a nondescript commercial warehouse with the appropriate name of Prestige Auto Vault.

The concept is simple enough. Customers park their cars there until they feel the urge to drive them. But unlike many other storage facilities, the Vault takes a few extra steps to ensures the autos are not only secure but also frequently maintained.

Every month, each car in the Vault has a service check. All fluids are inspected, tires are properly inflated, batteries charged, all for the sake of making sure that the vintage car actually works when the client does have the impulse for a Sunday drive in a thirty or forty-year-old car.

The Spy talked to Mike last week to understand more about this entrepreneurial experiment.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Prestige Auto Vault please go here.

The Physical by George Merrill

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I’ve often wished that I had the temperament of one of my dearest friends. He is faithful in all that he undertakes. He eats sensibly, exercises regularly, never smoked, drinks moderately, prays often and at specific times of day. He never seems put upon when others ask him to perform tedious tasks on their behalf. He is as virtuous a man as I have known – very credible – and although it does him no honor for me to say this, I do envy him his God-given disposition. He has an amiable relationship to himself. Mine tends to be more erratic.

A psychiatrist I know understands envy in this way: if the virtues that we see and admire in others were suddenly bestowed on us, we’d have no idea what to do with them.

I thought about this recently after my annual physical with my primary physician and cardiologist. Overall, I’m doing well. A problem has arisen in the last few years: I weigh more than I should, now to the tune of about twenty- five pounds. Of the invasive and other undignified diagnostic procedures I have been subject to over the years, including the universally loathed colonoscopy, the diagnostic prescription I find most difficult to hear is from not just from one but from both of my physicians; I must eat less and exercise more. At least in undergoing a colonoscopy, I’m out cold so the doctor can say anything and it wouldn’t bother me.

I find ‘eat less’ particularly hard to hear from my cardiologist. I don’t mean that he is not kind and competent. He says pretty much the same as my primary does. It’s just when he holds up one hand, points to the palm of it and with the other hand, inscribes a tiny circle, indicating this should be the size of the portions I need to be eating, I despair. I’m sure his hands are as large as any adult male but when he illustrates this particular prescription, like some ominous signing to a deaf man, I cringe. His hands seem to suddenly become diminutive, like a doll’s, and I think to myself how can he expect so much from me when he promises so little.

Both physicians recommended more exercise, one, advising specifically that walking one hour a day was best. Now this prescription did not please me much either but it was one I thought I could get behind far more than the starvation diet that the cardiologist advised. In one sense, I was prescribed two pills to address my ills; eat less and exercise more. I chose exercise over diet simply because I love to eat. But wait – isn’t contemporary medicine encouraging us to be a pro-active voice in designing our own treatment, tailoring it to the way we wish to live?

I write this to demonstrate how our unruly wills and affections can seduce us. Habits of the stomach for the aging can be even more compelling than those of the heart for the young. My reasoning: far better to burn those calories away in exercise than never to have savored them at all. I see it as unconscionable to waste their sweetness. And then, too, the calories would be gone for good that way, and would not remain available to compromise someone else’s’ health. Actually I’d be serving others.

Here’s the rub. Now, already two days successfully into my new resolve, the issue has come down to how much mettle my resolve actually contains. My challenge lies, not so much in knowing what has to be done, but in the showing up for the doing- boots on the ground, if you will. Am I really exercising for the right reasons? Am I trying to avoid the issue of eating less by exercising more? Yes! Only now I have crafted a rationale.

The great essayist, Montaigne, knew all the tricks that our minds play on us. He wrote, “Virtue will not be followed except for her own sake and if we sometimes borrow her mask for some other purpose, she promptly snatches it from our face.”

I heard a story once about a man, a recovering alcoholic who has enjoyed an otherwise successful thirty-year sobriety. He told about the games his mind used to play on him when he wanted what he wanted, but didn’t want to fess up to it.

Early in his recovery career he went into a bar and ordered six shots of bourbon. He had learned from AA that the first drink is too many, and a thousand is not enough. Just don’t take that first drink was the cardinal rule.

He claimed he never did.

He’d start drinking the the sixth shot, the last one placed on the bar. Then when he was down to the first, left it, then ordered six more, again drinking the sixth one the bartender put on the bar but never taking the first one. By the time he was wasted he had eight shots left on the bar, having left only the first one’s he correctly boasted that he never drank.

Here’s as honest as I can be at this moment in my own struggle with myself. I love eating too much right now to reduce my intake to those Spartan portions that were prescribed. I think I could knock off chocolate and deserts too (by knock off I mean eschewing not chewing) without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Scrapple should go and the skin of southern fried chicken I believe I could do without.

But the immediate challenge is exercise: what about a rainy day, or an extremely cold day, or one of those hot and sultry days on the Shore that can melt macadam on the roads. Worse still, when I just don’t feel like exercising at all. Then my unruly mind and its perverse wishes will begin plotting to defeat my resolve.

It’s time like this I envy my virtuous friend.

“Be sober, be vigilant,” writes Peter in his first epistle, “for your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

It’s not the roaring lion I’m worried about; it’s the whisper of temptation.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that my wife, Jo, copy edits my manuscripts for publication. She rarely challenges content, just cleans them up. She took issue with the number I claimed I was overweight. Normally she’s a great editor although she can get picky about details.

I stay resolutely focused on the big picture.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist. A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Food Friday: Mother’s Day (Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You!)

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Mother’s Day can be such an emotional minefield. My mother never thought it was a big deal, and would protest if we squandered our allowances on store-bought cards. I recently unearthed an encyclopedic collection of our badly drawn Mother’s Day cards, Valentines and birthday cards that my mother had kept in a shoe box for all these years. So maybe it was a more important event to her than she led on. Keep that in mind, that sweet homemade gestures might be best. (Full disclosure: There is also the fact that my parents never ever threw away a single piece of paper. To paraphrase Russell Baker, our childhood New England house will soon sink because of all the National Geographics stored in the attic.)

If your drawing abilities are limited, you might try cooking breakfast for the mothers in your life. This is always a welcome start to the day. I remember fondly a few Mother’s Day mornings when I was not the first out of bed. I do not drink coffee, luckily for my crew, so the first hint for me of an impending breakfast in bed was the sound of ice clinking into a glass. Ah, a Diet Coke and some cereal. As their culinary skills improved, my children graduated to toast, English muffins, bagels, pancakes and eventually, French toast. And we all decided that breakfast in the kitchen was just as cheering as one in bed, as long as I didn’t have to prepare the meal. I still had to clean up, because one cannot ask for the stars when one has enjoyed bacon cooked by someone else.

This is my oft-hauled-out-of-my-recipe-Dropbox-file.

We always have day old French bread (in fact we have a collection of French bread in the freezer – we will never starve) and it always seems a sin and a shame to pitch it, so this is a delightful and economical way to be frugal consumers. And who doesn’t love the added kick of the rum on an eventful Sunday morning…

We don’t measure anymore – but if you are a newbie to Mother’s Day, the proportions are a helpful guide.

French Toast
1 cup of milk
A pinch of salt
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 generous dollop of rum
1 tablespoon brown sugar
8 1/2-inch slices of day old French bread
Powdered sugar (optional)

Serves: 4
Whisk milk, salt, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, rum and sugar until smooth. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Soak bread slices in mixture until well-saturated. Cook the bread on each side for a couple of minutes, until golden brown. Serve with warmed maple syrup and a pinch powdered sugar. Fresh strawberries are always nice, too. Add some rashers of bacon, and you have prepared a veritable feast. Volunteer to wash the dishes, the gesture will be appreciated.

No Fuss Bacon
Preheat the oven to 425° F. Use a wire cooling rack in a half sheet cookie pan – one with edges. Place bacon slices on the rack. We like to use thick-cut bacon these days, otherwise we tend to incinerate the bacon, and even Luke the wonder dog turns his nose up at that. Plop the bacon sheet in the oven for about 15 minutes. Keep checking every 2 or 3 minutes after that, to ensure even cooking. There are no fat spatters on the range top if you cook the bacon this way. There is still a certain amount of denial about cleaning the cookie sheet, but you can sneak it back into the cooled oven for a little while, at any rate…

Skip the mimosas. We are going to plant some wildflowers today, and need to keep our heads about us. Another Diet Coke will suffice.

And be a sport and watch Little Women on PBS Sunday night.

“When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.”
-Erma Bombeck

“I never leaf through a copy of National Geographic without realizing how lucky we are to live in a society where it is traditional to wear clothes.”
-Erma Bombeck

Chasing Sophie: The Search for the Real Sophie Kerr

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There are quite a few things that Washington College can hang its hat on with great pride. The easiest one, of course, is the fact that George Washington willingly allowed his name to be used in the creation of the country’s 10th oldest college. That’s pretty good stuff but it does not diminish the other remarkable legacies of this 238-year-old school, and the prime example is the Denton born writer Sophie Kerr.

A native of the Mid-Shore who eventually found her way to hosting literary salons at her Murray Hill townhouse in New York in the first half of the 20th Century, Kerr became one of the most proficient writers of her time. When she passed away in 1965, she had completed over 80 novels, hundreds of magazine articles, and a number of highly sought after cookbooks. She also left enough money in her will to allow Washington College to offer each year the largest literary prize for an undergraduate in the country ($66,000 last year) and an equally significant amount to create what is now an impressive creative writing program at the school.

Another thing she left to the two institutions she had developed a strong kinship with, namely Columbia University, where she donated most of her letters and manuscripts, and Washington College, who was the recipient of her journal-like daybooks, poems, and other personal correspondence.

But even with this extraordinary collection of primary resource material, the real Sophie Kerr remains somewhat of a mystery to both scholars and the general public. The writer took extraordinary steps during her life to keep a large wall between her and her professional writing, but that also held true even with her letters.

The forever private nature of Kerr was a common interest that united three unique partners in a quest to chase down the real Sophie. WC’s professor Elizabeth O’Connor, whose lifetime scholarship had dug deep into American women writers during Sophie’s era, was eager to fill in some important gaps of knowledge. Her student, Brooke Schultz, found in Sophie the a perfect subject for the Friends of the Miller Library to award her a Thornton Fellowship to research her work for a senior thesis. And, finally, Heather Calloway, the College archivist, who had been tasked with making sense of Miller Library’s Kerr collection, also wanted to know more about Kerr’s history on the Eastern Shore as well as in New York.

Over the last year, these women set out to find the real Sophie Kerr as a unique team project which started with a meticulous review of WC’s holdings and ended with spending three days at Columbia’s archive to immerse themselves in the author’s complete body of work.

Some of the results of this work can be found in Brooke’s thesis, but, as the Spy found out in our interview with all three (appropriately in the Sophie Kerr Room at Miller Library), this intensive research project has only just begun to uncover this progressive writer’s unique personality and literary agenda.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Sophie Kerr and Washington College please go here.