Established by the board of directors of the Sperry and Hutchinson Company in 1971, the Beinecke Scholarship has been awarded to less than 500 students since it was created. It provides recipients with $4,000 prior to attending a graduate program and an additional $30,000 while enrolled.
Director of Fellowships and Undergraduate Research Lisa Grimes said that she was “delighted to nominate” Lerner for the award on behalf of the campus selection committee, and praised his dedication, enthusiasm and universal love of learning.
“He represents the absolute best of the College of William and Mary,” she said.
Lerner said that he was thrilled to be selected, calling the experience “one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened to me.”
The junior has spent the past few semesters working in moral psychology, an interdisciplinary field between his two majors that is dedicated to figuring out how people think and act morally. Lerner is also conducting his own research on free will and moral responsibility with Associate Philosophy Professor Matthew Haug. He plans to use this research as a segue into graduate work, which will focus on expanding the scope of people’s moral obligations to include traditionally neglected groups, such as the extreme poor in geographically remote areas.
The Beinecke Scholarship exists to help juniors in undergraduate programs fund their graduate school educations and aid in their future academic aspirations. As such, candidates must have a very clear idea of what their plans are for life after graduation. Following his senior year at William & Mary, Lerner hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in philosophy with a program that will allow him to supplement theorizing with original empirical research. He then intends to pursue a life of academia, becoming a public intellectual and using his public status to aid the overlooked and the ignored.
While Grimes said that Lerner’s goal is a lofty one, she said she is confident that his intellect, compassion and commitment will help him to succeed. Lerner, too, is confident, and said that receiving the Beinecke Scholarship makes him more sure of his decision to pursue a Ph.D., and to keep his aspirations lofty. Lerner also said he is extremely grateful to everyone who has enabled him to come this far.
“I'm tempted to say that winning the Beinecke has been the highlight of my college career thus far, but insofar as the award reflects the quality of my education and the people here who have made it possible,” he said. “I think it shows that these people have been the true highlights of my college experience.”