by Aaron Beatty
At a luncheon on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 16, 2014, the Austen Riggs Center awarded three graduating high school seniors the Evelyn Stefansson Nef Scholarship. The luncheon was an opportunity to celebrate scholastic achievement and to reflect upon the generosity and spirit of the scholarship’s namesake.
Started in 2000 by Evelyn Stefansson Nef, these scholarships are awarded annually by the Erikson Institute of the Austen Riggs Center to three high school students who have been selected for their academic achievements, pursuit of study in the social sciences or pre-medicine and their leadership in the community.
The scholarships would not have been possible without Mrs. Nef, an important member and benefactor of the extended Austen Riggs Community. Evelyn Stefansson Nef was many things during her rich and full 96 years of life: she was an author, puppeteer, researcher, lecturer, patron of the arts, philanthropist, Arctic explorer and psychotherapist.
Her gifts to Riggs have underwritten the Friday Night Lecture series, created research opportunities for the Center’s professional staff, and funded outreach projects and scholarships. In 2003, Mrs. Nef was the donor of the largest gift in the history of Riggs: a $3 million dollar bequest to endow the directorship of the Center’s Erikson Institute for Education and Research.
Mrs. Nef was awarded honorary doctorates from the University of Alaska in 1998, the Corcoran School of Art in 2000 and Dartmouth College in 2002. In 2001, she received the Icelandic Order of the Falcon Medal of Honour. Mrs. Nef was a member of the board of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington Opera, the Paget Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, the Lourie Center for Infants and Young Children and the International Longevity Center.
Events such as this luncheon for the recipients of the Evelyn Stefansson Nef Scholarship gave all who attended an opportunity to acknowledge the great promise of three young students in the context of remembering an extraordinary woman who was truly a student of life.
The 2014 recipients of the Evelyn Stefanasson Nef Scholarship, each of whom was presented with a copy of Mrs. Nef’s book, Finding my Way, the Autobiography of an Optimist, are:
- Michael Molina-Duque. Michael lives in Housatonic and graduated from Monument Mountain Regional High School with high honors. He plans to major in biology at Berkshire Community College. He received the Presidential Award of Educational Excellence, Academic Excellence in Chemistry, Academic Excellence in Pre-calculus, Varsity Wrestling Academic Excellence Team Award and was an M.I.A.A.Wrestling 2013-2014 Sectional Champion for 2013-14.
- Morgan Sherman. Morgan lives in Lee and graduated from Lee High School. She plans to attend Westfield State University and major in biology. While at Lee High, Morgan was a member of the National Honor Society and participated in Quiz Team and Helping Hands.
- Robyn Thiel. Robyn is from Pittsfield and attended Lenox High School. She was a member of the National Honor Society, the Art National Honor Society and won a Dean’s scholarship. She plans to attend the University of New Hampshire in the fall.