Matthew Schlerf '16 has been awarded the 2016 W. Thomas Smith Scholarship.
Tom Smith '48 of Greenville, S.C., created the W. Thomas Smith Scholarship to recognize a graduating senior's outstanding academic achievement at Davidson, demonstrated leadership, and service to the community. The scholarship is designed to be similar to other prestigious postgraduate awards, such as Rhodes, Marshall, Luce and Fulbright scholarships.
The award provides for all expenses to cover two consecutive semesters of study at a major university outside the United States.
A theatre major and Belk Scholar, Schlerf was chosen from among six finalists for the Smith. He will use it to study ensemble theatre at Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance in London.
In addition to a renowned creative and critical study of the form of ensemble work, Schlerf said, Rose Bruford's attention to ‘employability' includes a professional placement for the last section of the program, when students can work with companies in the United Kingdom or elsewhere in Europe with support from the college.
Schlerf's personal statement from his January application, excerpted here, details his path to an important life choice and the perspectives he will explore during his postgraduate year:
"At La MaMa Umbria, all artists worked together. We collaborated as an ensemble on shared, physical pieces, and we worked together as people, supporting one another in our shared summer home. We hung each other's laundry from a line in the garden, and we erected umbrellas over our tables in the sun. We shared food and drink and stories, and we carried each other in our hands and on our backs in play and performance. We sang in Spanish and Korean, and we danced on window ledges and in bathtubs. We painted our skin and learned to drum and pointed fingers and hugged and wept.
"I made a life choice last summer-greater than any singular career choice-to be an artist, finding and creating community through art. When I think about my future, I think about the person I want to be more than the things I want to be doing....
"The Smith Scholarship offers a radical potential for my post-graduate development-a chance to pursue training, to collaborate with other artists and, most importantly, to spend a year honing my passions and finding their practical fulfillment without wading my way out of the starving-artist trope."
Schlerf, who also won the 2016 Davidson Theatre Award at Spring Convocation this week, directed the spring play Eurydice.
He is also co-president of Be the Match on Campus bone marrow registry.