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Honors Northeast Scholars win four Caldwell Essay Awards

group of honors students

By: Dr. Andrew Yox, Honors Director

Last weekend in College Station, NTCC honors-student essayists won their 33rd, 34th, 35th, and 36th Caldwell essay awards in Texas history. Together, these essays came with $675 in prize money, and established the current cohort of NTCC honors students as second to none in the history of NTCC, in terms of regional scholarly competition. Though NTCC traditionally has fared best with scholars in the under-sixty-hour, freshman-sophomore division, this year, for the first time, NTCC students won a record three Caldwell Awards in the upper, over-sixty-hours division.

The special Webb-Society session of the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) has been an annual feature for over thirty years.  The Webb Society is the collegiate auxiliary of the TSHA, and leaders of the latter have seriously cultivated collegiate talent in history since University of Texas Professor Joe Frantz started the Webb Society in 1973. In this year’s annual session, NTCC scholars were particularly prominent.  All-USA Team winner, Neida Perez first presented a showcase lecture on her Caldwell-winning essay of last year on the Texas war with microbes. Then came the awards, announced by Lisa Berg, Director of Education for the TSHA.  As she started with the lower division, going from fourth to first, it appeared at first that Presidential Scholar, Vanessajane Bayna had at least given the college something to cheer about.  She came in third, and won $150 for her work on tendency of Texas leaders since 1930 to tolerate the toxification of Texas.  But as the names were read for the upper-division, usually dominated by university students, the audience, except for the NTCC group, grew silent.  In this category, three NTCC students placed: Skylar Hodson came in second and won $300 for her work on Texas film, Odalys Adame placed third for her work on the history of Texas Odd Fellows, and Texas Heritage National Bank Scholar, Perla Guzman placed fourth, for her history of physicians in Texas.

All four of the winners went to special lengths to secure the primary-source data that is an important aspect of attaining expertise in history. Bayna worked with the speeches and written work of Texas Governors, as well as Great Society leaders, Lyndon Johnson, and Ralph Yarborough. Hodson journeyed to Austin last November for special work with the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. Adame traveled to Corsicana to research at the Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in Texas.  Finally, Guzman interviewed three Mount Pleasant physicians who were kind enough to work in a lunch with her, Dr. Brad Burrows, Dr. Eric Reed, and Dr. Roger Stuart.

The generous awards are in memory of Texas oilman, Clifton M. Caldwell who in 1974 set up an endowment to reward the best collegiate scholars in Texas history.

Honors Director, Dr. Andrew Yox, who drove the group to College Station, noted: “I was really wowed by the efforts of our scholars this year.  They not only submitted lengthy testaments each of sixteen weeks of their curiosity before finishing their final essays, but they were willing to travel, and meet experts who could help them. We are very thankful for the culture of scholarship that has been established here over the years, due to our many friends at NTCC and in our larger community.”

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