English / Theater Double Major Wins $65,770 for His Writing
It’s hard to believe that Reilly Cox, this year’s winner of the largest undergraduate literary award in the country, started his college career as a chemistry major.
The Washington College (MD) senior took home the 2016 Sophie Kerr Prize of $65,770 for a portfolio of his essays, poems, playwriting thesis and English thesis on erasure poetry (i.e., erasing text from an existing piece of work to create a poem). The 22-year-old from Westminster, Maryland, served as poetry editor for The Collegian and has won numerous awards for writing, including a Sophie Kerr scholarship his freshman year.
In his acceptance speech, Cox mentioned his father, who died last year, and another friend, who also had died. It’s no surprise that some of his pieces are about loss.
Kathryn Moncrief, professor and chair of the Department of English who also chairs the Sophie Kerr Committee, says Cox not only immersed himself in the liberal arts opportunities at the college, but also was “usually the first with his hand up at a reading to ask insightful, thought-provoking questions of the visiting writer.”
In his acceptance speech, Cox said his father was the first person he told about the Sophie Kerr Prize.“I wish I could tell him [I won],” he said. “The first play I ever wrote was for a friend who is no longer with us, but he keeps me writing. It is very easy to forget to be kind and to forget to tell the people you love how much they mean to you. So please, tonight, remember.”
Cox will attend the Seminar for Younger Poets at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and plans to go to graduate school for poetry and/or book arts after he works on several writing and travel projects.
The Sophie Kerr Prize is funded from an endowment of its namesake, who was a prolific and popular writer of the early 20th century. Since 1968, the equivalent of half of that year’s income from the endowment is given to a Washington College senior who shows the most promise for a future in writing. From $9,000 its inaugural year to $69,000 in 2009, the award has given more than $6.5 million to students who have gone on to become writers, editors, teachers and marketing professionals. The other half of the annual endowment is used for scholarships, visiting writers and scholars, books and literary publications.
To learn more about the Sophie Kerr Prize, visit www.washcoll.edu/depart ments/english/sophie-kerr-legacy/.