- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 20, 2007

CHESTERTOWN, Md. (AP) — A 22-year-old English and drama major from Pennsylvania yesterday won one of the country’s largest undergraduate literary awards at Washington College.

The Sophie Kerr Prize, worth $60,027 this year, goes to the graduating senior who demonstrates the greatest “ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor.”

The winner’s name is announced each year during the graduation ceremony at the small liberal-arts colleges in Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

This year’s winner was Liam Daley of Drexel, Pa.

“I was reasonably well surprised,” Mr. Daley said. “They call your name out, and it’s the first you’ve heard of it. Intense.”

Mr. Daley, one of 40 students who entered, won for his critical thesis on medieval English literature and a portfolio of plays and short prose pieces.

He spent his junior year studying at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and plans to return there this fall for graduate school. Mr. Daley said he’ll use the money to help pay for school.

A full production of his play, “What the Cat Said,” was staged at the school earlier this year.

“I was immensely pleased and delighted with the way it came out,” Mr. Daley said.

Mr. Daley is skilled in academic and creative writing — a combination that is rarely seen, said his thesis adviser, Corey Olsen.

“I went into it very confident that he would be a serious contender for the prize,” Mr. Olsen said. “He was certainly my top candidate going in, and I was very pleased with the ultimate result. It was very richly deserved.”

English professor Richard Gillin, who led the committee that decides the winner, praised Mr. Daley’s verbal dexterity and compared him to French playwright Moliere and Irish playwright Martin McDonagh.

In his 33 years on the committee, Mr. Gillin said a number of people have submitted dramatic pieces, “but none has measured up to Liam’s by far.”

Washington College has awarded more than $1 million since the Sophie Kerr Prize was first given in 1968, most often to writers of poetry and fiction.

Mrs. Kerr, a Denton native who wrote 23 novels and more than 100 stories in her career, left a $500,000 endowment to the school.

Each year, half the income goes to the award and the other half goes toward books, student publications and brings visiting writers, editors and publishers to campus.

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