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Wofford senior awarded prestigious NPR Kroc Fellowship

Friday, May 12, 2006

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Wofford College senior Thomas Pierce of Spartanburg is one of three students selected nationally to receive the prestigious NPR Kroc Fellowship, providing the opportunity to work alongside some of the country’s most respected news reporters, producers and editors.

The yearlong fellowship, which begins in August, carries with it a stipend of more than $37,000, plus benefits, including paid vacation. Fellows are provided hands-on training in every aspect of public radio journalism while working at National Public Radio (NPR) headquarters in Washington, D.C., and on assignment with NPR stations around the country.

Other recipients this year are Monica del Carmen Villavicencio, a graduate in English from Columbia University, who will earn her bachelor’s degree from the London School of Economics this year; and Melody Joy Kramer, an English major at the University of Pennsylvania.

Pierce, a history and English major, was Wofford’s 2004-05 Presidential International Scholar and author of “said the dark fishes,” winner of the Benjamin Wofford Prize for fiction writing. He also has written a play about his travels, and has been active in Wofford Theatre. He performs in a bluegrass band and has filmed and directed a documentary.

“Thomas Pierce’s work in all his undertakings – stellar academic performance and author of a readable and sophisticated novella – has been astonishing,” Wofford President Benjamin B. Dunlap says. “His performance on the mandolin, his ad-lib stand-up comedy, and his work as a preceptor/collaborator in the development of recognized learning communities all have been equally remarkable. That one person should so modestly make all these contributions during his undergraduate career and do so while remaining the most engagingly popular person on campus is simply mind-boggling.”

Dunlap adds, “Thomas Pierce is a truly extraordinary person, one among many thousands. He deserves extraordinary recognition.”

Pierce says growing up listening to NPR inspired him to go for the fellowship. “I instinctively knew this was something for me. The more I read and thought about it, the more I fell in love with the idea of living in D.C. and working for one of the most reliable and interesting news sources in the country.”

Believing getting the fellowship was “a long shot,” Pierce was “nothing less than ecstatic” when he was selected. “This fellowship trains you in all areas of radio journalism, but primarily, I aim to write pieces for broadcast and the Web. What I like best about the fellowship is that it gives you the space to be creative and to experiment.”

As for plans beyond NPR, Pierce says, “I have no idea what will happen. I’m taking it one step at a time.”

Pierce is a Charles E. Daniel Scholar. He serves on the Honor Council and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Kappa Alpha social fraternity, the Blue Key National Honor Society, Wofford Theatre and Alpha Psi Omega drama fraternity. He has studied abroad at the University of Cape Town in Africa. He is the son of Mickey and Nancy Pierce of Spartanburg, S.C.

The NPR Kroc Fellowship was established to identify and develop “a new generation of extraordinary journalists for the public radio system,” according to NPR’s Web site. Only three fellows are accepted each year.

The fellowships are made possible by a bequest to NPR from Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald’s Corp. founder Ray A. Kroc. In 2003, Mrs. Kroc left NPR more than $200 million, some of which is being used to strengthen the NPR News Division.

NPR Kroc Fellows work alongside reporters, producers and editors on such news magazines as “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition” and at NPR member stations to develop production and editorial skills; reporting and on-air experience; Web writing and multimedia production skills; and first-hand broadcast journalism experience.