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Erikson Institute of the Austen Riggs Center Awards Evelyn Stefansson Nef Scholarship

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The Evelyn Stefansson Nef Scholarship is awarded annually by the Austen Riggs Center’s Erikson Institute to three local high school students selected for their academic achievements, pursuit of study in the social sciences or pre-medicine, and their leadership in the community. Established in 2000 by philanthropist and Riggs’ donor Evelyn Stefansson Nef, the scholarship is one of the many ways Riggs endeavors to connect with and give back to the local community. At a recent luncheon, Riggs congratulated and celebrated the 2016 recipients: Quinn Abrams, Jack Ellrodt, and Ana Vera Cruz.    

Quinn Abrams lives in Great Barrington and graduated from Monument Mountain Regional High School. Quinn will be attending Brown University and majoring in cognitive science. As he starts on the path toward his career, he hopes to embody many of Riggs’ treatment philosophies. “It’s really inspiring and a model for the core values of how I want to understand cognitive science,” he said. “The focus on the individual is so important.”

Jack Ellrodt lives in Lenox and graduated from Lenox Memorial High School. He will be attending the pre-med program at Williams College in the fall. As a young child, he attended the Austen Riggs Nursery School, but he didn’t know much about Riggs’ clinical program until recently. “I was surprised that there was a local mental health facility with such a strong focus on patient relationships,” he explained. “That is how I want to shape my work as a doctor.”

Ana Vera Cruz lives in Pittsfield and graduated from Lee High School. She will be attending Berkshire Community College to study nursing before going into medicine. She said she is very grateful for the support, especially since it is from a hospital like Riggs. “It’s good that there are places like this to help people with problems they don’t know how to solve,” she said. “That is what I want to do with my life.

As Medical Director/CEO Andrew J. Gerber, MD, PhD, explained, Riggs continues to prioritize these scholarships because “we have a mission that includes education and being part of the local community; it makes sense that we support young people going into the field of psychology and medicine.”

The scholarship’s namesake, Evelyn Stefansson Nef, was aware of the importance of encouraging and supporting young people. Ms. Nef was a lifelong learner, philanthropist, author, and psychotherapist. In adulthood she explored the Arctic with her second husband, writing a book about her experiences there. In her sixties, Ms. Nef went back to school to become a psychotherapist and practiced well into her eighties. She attended the scholarship luncheon at Riggs until the end of her life in 2009 and loved listening to students speak about their plans for college and beyond.

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