Gillian Gray '17, a philosophy major currently studying abroad at Oxford University, has received the Beinecke Scholarship, a highly selective award for college juniors who plan to pursue graduate courses of study in the arts, humanities and social sciences.
She is one of only 20 students nationwide to be selected for the award, and the first Whitman student since 2012. Participating schools are only permitted a single Beinecke nomination per year, making the competition even more rigorous.
"The Beinecke Scholarship is arguably the most distinguished academic award for students in their junior year," said Director of Fellowships and Grants Keith Raether. "I'd liken it to a junior Rhodes, Marshall or Gates Cambridge scholarship. Recipients are extraordinarily motivated and have exceptional promise in their scholarly fields. Gillian is all of this. She exemplifies the award in every way."
The Beinecke Scholarship Program was established in 1971 in honor of the Beinecke family. Since then, more than 590 students of "exceptional promise" from upwards of 100 undergraduate institutions have been named Beinecke Scholars. The terms of the award stipulate a total of $34,000 in support of graduate education. Most recipients use all of the funding within five years of completion of undergraduate studies.
"Though I didn't want to put too much pressure on whether or not I received the scholarship, I knew that it would be a huge step for my career if I did," said Gray, who spent more than a year working through the application process with help from the fellowships and grants office, as well as a number of Whitman philosophy professors.
"Now that I know the good news, it still is taking its time to sink in. The scholarship itself is certainly substantial, and will be crucial in helping me to actually attend graduate school, practically speaking—I'm from a very small, low-income working-class family, so I'll be relying on what I can make though work and scholarships to fund any future studies."
A member of the college's acclaimed Ethics Bowl team, Gray intends to further her interest in that field by studying social justice, animal rights and environmental issues through a philosophical lens. Leading contenders for graduate school include Stanford University and the University of Chicago.
"Gillian represents the best of Whitman," said Assistant Professor of Philosophy Michelle Jenkins, Gray's faculty adviser and a Beinecke Scholar herself. "She's excited to learn and dedicated to her education. And she is at least as concerned with putting that education to use in improving the lives of those around her. I'm thrilled at the ways in which the Beinecke will open up opportunities for her and am eager to see where it takes her."