Fay Prize Awarded to Kirkland Senior

Andrea H. Kurtz ’01, a chemistry concentrator in Kirkland House, received the Captain Jonathan Fay Prize last week at the Radcliffe Strawberry Tea, an event for graduating seniors sponsored by the Radcliffe Association.

The Fay Prize is the highest honor Radcliffe bestows on an undergraduate. The prize was not given last year because the wording of the prize dictated that Radcliffe College award the prize to a woman. The newly-formed Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study was able to remove the gender restriction, comply to Harvard College’s non-discrimination policy, and award the prize for the first time in two years this spring.

Amidst a festive atmosphere where waiters served hors d’oeuvres and fresh strawberries underneath a tent on the grassy lawn next to her house, Greenleaf, Radcliffe Dean Drew Gilpin Faust announced that Kurtz would receive the award. Three runners-up were also announced: biology concentrator Megan E. Frederickson ’01, literature concentrator John T. Maier ’01, and applied mathematics concentrator Alison F. Egan ’01, a former Crimson executive.

“By honoring the work of these students, whose concentrations represent four different disciplines, we are also reflecting the mission of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study,” Faust said. “This is an exciting moment for them and for us.”

Kurtz was selected for her thesis entitled “Synthesis and Characterization of Alumninum and Iron Nanoparticles and Development of a Colloidal Catalyst for Carbon Nanotube Growth.”

“I didn’t expect this,” Kurtz said. “To have this sort of recognition for a project I’ve been working on for about two years is extremely gratifying.”

Next year, Kurtz will continue her studies at Stanford.

Last spring, Mary Maples Dunn, the then-acting dean of the Radcliffe Institute, and Jeremy R. Knowles, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, announced that they decided not to give the prize because they feared there would not be enough time before graduation to ensure that the criteria for the prize complied with Harvard’s non-discrimination policy. They also said they wanted to establish a set of criteria for the prize that was in keeping with the mission of the Institute.

“No one quite knew what to do about the prize,” Faust explained.

In the past, the Fay Prize was awarded annually to a female senior “whose academic achievement and personal conduct have made her an outstanding member of the community.”

This year, the candidates for the Fay Prize were selected from the nominees for Harvard College’s Thomas T. Hoopes Prize, which was awarded in May to 73 students for outstanding scholarly work or research.

An interdisciplinary committee convened by the Institute made the final selection.

—Staff writer Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at shoichet@fas.harvard.edu.