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Thomas receives Watson Fellowship

CONWAY, Ark. (March 26, 2010) – Hendrix College senior Nathan Thomas of Fayetteville has received a prestigious Watson Fellowship, a $25,000 award that will allow him to travel and study globally.

Thomas was one of 40 graduating college seniors nationally to receive the fellowship, given by the Thomas J. Watson Foundation. The grant provides a one-year grant for independent study and travel outside the United States. Thomas, the only student from Arkansas to receive a Watson Fellowship, will use his award to investigate cultural education in four metropolitan primary schools in Australia, Finland, South Africa and India. 

“These awards are long-term investments in people, not research,” said Cleveland Johnson, the director of the Watson Fellowship Program and a former Watson Fellow. “We look for persons likely to lead or innovate in the future and give them extraordinary independence to pursue their interests outside of traditional academic structures. Watson Fellows are passionate learners, creative thinkers, and motivated self-starters who are encouraged to dream big but demonstrate feasible strategies for achieving their fellowship goals.”

The 40 Watson Fellows come from 23 states and three foreign countries and exhibit a broad diversity of academic specialty, socio-economic background, and life experience. As the 42nd class of Watson Fellows, they’ll traverse 76 countries, exploring topics from policewomen in the Islamic world to medicinal plant markets, from geothermal energy to open-fire cooking, from large-format photography to creek boating, from recycled buses in the Global South to the use of hip hop in holistic healing.  An award-winning slam poet will study cultural attitudes toward the Islamic veil.  A young engineer will live in and explore eco-cities. The son of video game designers will look at social aspects of gaming culture in East Asia.  A track and cross-country runner will investigate the emerging sport of parkour.  A Jewish Ukrainian émigré will examine the rebirth of Judaism in the post-Soviet world.  A former coal miner (and owner of his own biodiesel company) will survey sustainable rural economies.  An electronic visual artist/composer will seek out hotbeds of electronic art.  A neuroscientist will explore fermentation in global culinary traditions.  A volunteer fireman/forest-firefighter/EMT will examine emergency infrastructure on three continents.

The Thomas J. Watson Foundation was created in 1961 as a charitable trust by Mrs. Thomas J. Watson, Sr., in honor of her late husband, the founder of International Business Machines Corp., widely known as IBM. The Foundation initially used its resources in support of a variety of programs. In 1968, in recognition of Mr. and Mrs. Watson's long-standing interest in education and world affairs, their children--Mrs. Helen W. Buckner, Mrs. John N. Irwin II, Mr. Arthur K. Watson, and Mr. Thomas J. Watson, Jr.--decided that the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program should constitute a major activity of the Foundation. Since that date, the Fellowship Program has granted more than 2,300 Watson Fellowship awards, with stipends totaling more than $29 million.

Hendrix, founded in 1876, is a selective, residential, undergraduate liberal arts college emphasizing experiential learning in a demanding yet supportive environment. The college is featured in the 2010 edition of the Princeton Review as one of the country’s best 371 colleges, was identified as the nation’s top “Up and Coming” liberal arts college for 2010 by U.S. News and World Report, and is ranked among 44 “Best Buy” colleges by the 2010 Fiske Guide to Colleges. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. For more information, visit