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PRESS RELEASE: Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars Program Honors Top Students and Their Mentors

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Nov. 11, 2020 – University of Maryland’s top graduating seniors worked to cure cancer, get out the vote, and advocate for diversity and inclusion. One senior helped educate the public about COVID-19 using artificial intelligence. Another became a Fulbright Scholar. And one happens to hold a world record in Rubik’s Cube competitions.

But the Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars program doesn’t just recognize seniors and their accomplishments, prestigious internships and impressive GPAs. It also honors faculty and K-12 teachers who helped mentor these students.

Each of the 19 Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars credits grade school and high school teachers and UMD faculty who helped guide, inspire, coach, tutor and challenge them in both big and small ways.

“Our students’ accomplishments do not take place in solitude,” said President Darryll J. Pines. “This program is also a chance to applaud the individuals who helped nurture their success, and to recognize the power of mentorship. We are grateful for the Merrill family's vision and support of outstanding teachers and the lifelong gift they give to their students.”

The late Philip Merrill, friend of the University and long-time Washington area publisher, created the Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars Program in 2004 to build a community of scholars, faculty members, and K-12 teachers who recognize and celebrate the importance of teaching and mentoring the next generation. The program provides $1,000 scholarships, which are awarded in the K-12 teacher’s name to another student from that school district who will attend UMD in the fall of 2021.

The legacy created by the program particularly touched a freshman from Walt Whitman High School this fall, who received the scholarship in the name of social studies teacher Wendy Eagan. Ms. Eagan was also an influential teacher when the student’s mother attended Walt Whitman.

“It’s just so funny how life works in a circle – never would I have imagined as a high schooler that in the future one of my children would be the beneficiary of such a wonderful award. I can think of nothing more meaningful than recognition of exceptional teachers who make such long lasting impacts on the lives of children,” said Ellie Abramowitz, an ’83 Whitman graduate and a ’87 Terp.

William A. Cohen, Associate Provost and Dean for Undergraduate Studies, says that every year there are examples of the ripple effects of superior teaching. “The kind, encouraging words, the extra hours of tutoring and the timely advice are often remembered for years,” he said. “These students’ achievements are a testament to the power of teachers and mentors in an academic journey. Success is a team effort.”

The customary reception could not be held this year because of COVID-19 social distancing requirements. But the narratives written by scholars about their teachers are on the UMD Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars website.