Lifestyle

Trio wins $5,000 in scholarship funds

Finalists in the first scholarship reception for the Stanley Ann Dunham Memorial Scholarship. - Jenny Manning/Staff Photo
Finalists in the first scholarship reception for the Stanley Ann Dunham Memorial Scholarship.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Staff Photo

Maybe it’s something in the water — or just being surrounded by it — that makes Mercer Island such a unique place. Alice Dewey, Ph.D., hammered home that point at the first annual Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship Fund awards Wednesday afternoon.

Dewey, an anthropologist and friend, mentor and graduate adviser of Stanley Ann Dunham, the mother of President Barak Obama, called Mercer Island “the damnedest place I’ve ever been,” citing the amount of community support, scholarship and bountiful opportunities available for youth.

“I understand Ann now better because she grew up with people who cared and did something about it,” she said of Dunham, a 1960 Mercer Island High School graduate. “She faced challenges with pleasure.”

A group of MIHS alumni kick-started the scholarship in honor of their late classmate’s legacy as “someone who was ahead of her time in feeling a part of a global community.”

Dunham, who was highly admired by her classmates, earned her Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Hawaii.

Many of the applicants mirror Dunham’s eagerness to learn, grasp intercultural communication and drive to empower women. They’ve travelled to far away countries to aid the poor, build shelter for the needy and teach English to facilitate communication. They take on leadership rolls, mentor their younger counterparts and spend time to help those other than themselves.

These 20 young women are much like Stanley Ann Dunham, Dewey said.

Lynn Allen, a longtime Islander, 1966 MIHS graduate and secretary of the Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship Fund, said, “These women have cranked it up.”

“What these women are doing is very recognizable,” she said. “These young women are already opening up their minds and engaging with the world.”

Five of Dunham’s friends and classmates attended the reception: Chip Wall, Maxine Box, Susan Blake, Marilyn O’Neill and Marilyn Prosser, in addition to former principal Lynn Watts (1974-1979), and several former teachers.

“Stanley was a thinker. Independent-minded, verbally sharp, with a keen wit and a quick read of others. Stanley was capable of throwing off social convention if she found it restrictive,” said Wall of Dunham. “She was ultimately capable of looking at world poverty from what was then and still is now, a very new perspective. I can see her influence on her son, the president. Mercer Island was a tremendously positive influence on what she was to become in life.”

Nearly a hundred others including parents, grandparents, family and friends packed into the reception area at Aljoya in downtown Mercer Island.

Of the 20 applicants, all MIHS students, Khia Johnston, Kristine Fu and Emma Thomson each earned a $1,700 scholarship. Johnston will study international women’s education and Arabic at Denison University in Granville, Ohio; Fu will enroll in the seven-year biodental program at the University of Pennsylvania; and Thomson will pursue a degree in global health at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., next fall.

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