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History-Lit Major Wins Lankford Prize

By Chris Lydgate ’90 on May 26, 2015 03:30 PM

History-lit major Kieran Hanrahan ’15 won the Lankford Award for his thesis on poetry and the Iraq War.

History-lit major Kieran Hanrahan ’15 has won the prestigious William T. Lankford III Humanities Award.

The award recognizes accomplishment in both history and literature and is given to students with outstanding academic records and strong potential for further achievement. It honors Prof. Bill Lankford [English 1977–83], a beloved teacher and scholar of the works of Dickens whose life was cut short by devastating illness.

Kieran’s thesis was titled: “Writing in Water, Building with Sand: American Military Strategy and the Soldier’s Experience in the Iraqi Environment during the Iraq War.” His advisers were Prof. Pancho Savery [English 1995–] and Prof. Josh Howe [history 2012–].

The Lankford committee praised Kieran for "an exceptional thesis" that raises "bold and challenging questions."

Prof. Howe wrote:  "Kieran has succeeded remarkably in his academics at Reed, capped off by an excellent thesis. But what his thesis and his academic record do not reveal is his equally impressive success as a member of the Reed community. He is patient, earnest, even-keeled, and kind. He thinks deeply and carefully about his words and deeds and about whom they impact. He has gained the trust and respect of his peers and mentors by listening closely, collaborating openly and open-mindedly, and working hard."

Beyond his academic pursuits, Kieran edited the Quest for four semesters (this must be some kind of record), served as elections czar, and was an editor of the Reed College Creative Review. He hails from Portland, Maine.

"It came as a complete surprise," Kieran said. "I hadn't heard of the award or its namesake until I received it. I had just turned in two bound copies of my thesis to the Library when I found out about the Lankford, so it served as a gratifying capstone to my time at Reed... I am grateful to Professor Lankford for his vision, and to my thesis co-advisers Josh Howe and Pancho Savery for their guidance."

The Lankford Award honors the memory of Prof. Bill Lankford (1946–1983), a distinguished teacher of English and humanities who served Reed College from 1977 until his untimely death in 1983. The award recognizes accomplishments in English literature in order to keep our collective memory. Bill Lankford’s national reputation as a scholar of the works of Charles Dickens and his inspiring teaching that imbued many of his students with the same passion for literature that possessed him. The award also specifies accomplishment in history and in the relations between history and literature to honor Bill Lankford’s second great love—his avocation—history, and to recall his important role in bringing new life and energy to the history and literature program at Reed College. Finally, the award recognizes potential, as well as past academic accomplishment, to underline Bill Lankford’s deepest conviction, that devoted teaching makes a difference in the lives of young people and that it helped them to fulfill their potentials as intellectuals, citizens, and as human beings.

History major Kalina Hadzhikova ’15 also won the award. Both winners received a cash prize and a copy of David Copperfield in honor of Prof. Lankford’s love of Dickens.