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Bair Announces New Scholarship

The Honorable Sheila C. Bair

(The Elm) – On Dec. 10, President Sheila Bair announced a new scholarship in Executive Assistant Annie Coleman’s name.

At Coleman’s request, this scholarship will go to a resident of Kent County applying to Washington College. Coleman is a Kent County native and graduated from Chestertown High School. She said, “I was born right over here at this hospital… I lived about a mile from Quaker Neck Landing, so we were near the river. I spent a lot of my time in the summer walking down to the river and swimming.”

The Annie Brown Coleman Scholarship is made possible by a generous endorsement of $1 million from Chair of the Eugene B. Casey Foundation Betty Brown Casey, class of 1947. According to the WC website, Casey has been chair of the foundation since 1986, and her “generosity to her alma mater has been longstanding, providing essential support for renovating existing buildings and constructing new facilities to provide space for the arts, academics, technology instruction, and swimming.” Some of the Eugene B. Casey Foundation’s projects include the construction and renovation of WC’s swim center, the construction of the Casey Academic Center, and the renovation of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and Brown Cottage. Casey has also, according to the website, “established and supported scholarships now valued at more than $10 million.”

In a press release on the WC website, President Bair said, “The scholarship we are announcing today pays tribute to two outstanding women who have played major roles in the history of Washington College… Each in their own way has contributed to the grace and beauty of our campus, and our culture of support and caring for our students. We owe them both huge debts of gratitude.”

Coleman met Casey through her job as an executive assistant. In this position, Coleman said, “The biggest part of my job is maintaining the president’s calendar and scheduling appointments.” Coleman also answers many phone calls. She said, “I became acquainted [with Mrs. Casey] just by virtue of me answering the phone and placing calls to her [for the president]. Throughout my 32 years as the president’s executive assistant, I was the one who usually answered the phone. If the president wasn’t here then we would have a conversation, and I would ask if I could help her with anything, so our friendship grew over time… For that I’m very grateful and very pleased because she’s a wonderful lady.”

According to Coleman, Casey gave her a call one day to tell her about the opportunity for the scholarship in her name. She asked Coleman to think about it for a few days, and Coleman called back about five days later to say she would be delighted to take Casey’s offer.

“Mrs. Casey and I worked out the details of the scholarship,” Coleman said. “[Casey] said, ‘It’s your scholarship. I want you to be involved in it,’ so I told her I’d like to have it limited to Kent County students since that’s where I lived all my life… She thought that was great, so we wrote up a sort of memorandum of understanding, which they do with all scholarships.”

When Coleman first heard about the scholarship, she said, “I was glad I was sitting down because I certainly wasn’t expecting that… I was just blown away, to think that somebody would do something that nice.”

According to the WC website, “The Annie Brown Coleman Scholarship will be awarded to a student ‘of impeccable character’” and that “Mrs. Casey requested that [Coleman] participate in choosing the scholarship recipient as long as she is able.”

“I would look for somebody that was involved in the community,” Coleman said. “I know you have to do a certain amount of community service anyway, but I’d look for somebody who’s gone a little bit above and beyond what’s required and see what they’re involved in otherwise— not just volunteer service but other community things.”

Coleman herself has been an active member in her high school alumni community. She has served as the president of Chestertown High School Alumni Association since she formed it in 1997. Coleman said, “It’s been very successful. We have an annual picnic and those who come really enjoy it, and from the dues and the contributions that we receive, we provide scholarships to high school graduates. We ask that they meet certain requirements and are recommended by an alumni member of the association… We’ve been able to give out about $5,000 in scholarships a year, which I think is pretty good.”

Overall, Coleman believes WC can provide students with many opportunities from joining the Cater Society of Junior Fellows to finding all kinds of internships and even just learning from professors in a smaller class setting. “If you go to a big university, it’s a whole other ball game. You’re probably just a number there, but you’re a person here and someone that they care about.” The Annie Brown Coleman scholarship will provide another way for one lucky student to take part in these opportunities.

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