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U.Va. Graduate John R. Kiess Receives Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship

July 23, 2004 -- John R. Kiess, a 2001 graduate of the University of Virginia, lives the theology he studies through volunteering in poor neighborhoods and trying to resolve conflicts in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His efforts, both academic and practical, haven’t gone unnoticed. At 25, he is one of this year’s 39 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Scholars.

The scholarships, valued at up to $50,000 a year, support their recipients for the length of their graduate or professional degree programs.

“It is a high honor to have been selected,” said Kiess, who wants to combine grassroots community organizing, teaching and writing. He will use his Cooke funds to further his exploration of faith and community issues at Peterhouse College, University of Cambridge, where he will pursue a master’s degree in theology, beginning this October. He plans to seek a Ph.D. in theology after that.

Kiess received a degree from U.Va. in Political and Social Thought, is also U.Va.’s first George J. Mitchell Scholarship winner. He is currently attending Queens College in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he studies Comparative Ethnic Conflict.

Kiess — a native of North Dartmouth, Mass., and the son of Dr. Robert C. and Doris Kiess — has played an active community service role. He was director of the Congregation City Workgroup in Charlottesville, Va., an initiative to bring clergy, community activists and students together to address critical issues facing the community. He has been an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer in a distressed neighborhood in Charlottesville, where he designed and implemented a teen employment program, a tutoring program for elementary school children, and a life skills program for youth at risk. In June 2003, Charlottesville Mayor Maurice D. Cox officially proclaimed Kiess a world-class citizen for his efforts in the city.

A member of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society at U.Va., he took first place in a prestigious national theological writing competition. Kiess has also been a consultant with the Institute for Public History at U.Va., developing a curriculum for mobilizing grassroots leadership in Charlottesville’s low-income areas.

In addition, he was one of six leaders selected nationwide in 1998 to be a presiding officer at the Conference on National Affairs, organized by the YMCA Youth and Government. He has coached junior high boys basketball teams, and distributed food to the homeless in Los Angeles.

“John has tried to live out his intellectual commitment by making concrete contributions to the Charlottesville community,” said Professor Michael J. Smith, who taught Kiess for three years. “He has done a similar thing in Belfast, and I expect he will do so in Cambridge.”

“I am confident John Kiess will become one of the most exciting theological voices of his generation,” said religious studies professor Charles R. Marsh.

Marsh said Kiess helped invigorate the moral mission of the University.

“In the past three years, we have witnessed at the University a resurgence of moral energy among undergraduates,” Marsh said. “Kiess has been a defining voice in this new activism. A young man of mature faith and great discipline, John’s entire life is shaped by his commitment to others and, importantly, to developing a deep and theologically informed integration of intellect and compassion.”

This year’s Cooke scholarship recipients were chosen from a pool of 1,226 nominees submitted by 747 colleges.

“We developed this program to offer outstanding individuals the financial freedom to pursue their highest calling through advanced education,” said Matthew J. Quinn, the foundation’s executive director and a former college president. “In this group, we have found 39 of the finest students in America, and we expect they will make tremendous contributions to their professions and communities.”

Quinn said that to be selected as a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar, students “had to show not only exceptional academic ability, but also a strong will to succeed and other qualities such as
demonstrated critical thinking, a sense of service, a love of the arts or humanities, … [because] each of these attributes was important to Mr. Cooke.”

Scholarship amounts will vary for each recipient based on several factors. Each award can cover some or all of the scholar's tuition, room and board, fees, and books for the duration of the scholar's approved degree program (up to six years). The scholars may use the award to attend any accredited graduate school in the United States or abroad.

Kiess is the University of Virginia’s 11th Jack Kent Cooke Scholar.

“John is a remarkable young man, and we are thrilled to have another graduate gain the prestigious distinction of being a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar,” said Nicole F. Hurd, the assistant dean and director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence, who oversees the U.Va. Cooke selection process.

Contact: Nicole Hurd, (434) 924-7727

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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