O’Donnell wins Beinecke scholarship

On April 15, Sam O’Donnell ’15 received a Beinecke Scholarship to support his graduate education. The award was established in 1971 to provide substantial scholarships for the graduate education of young men and women of “exceptional promise.” The program seeks to encourage and enable highly motivated students to pursue available opportunities in the selection of a graduate course of study in the arts, humanities or social sciences. The scholarship grants the recipient $4000 immediately prior to entering graduate school and an additional $30,000 during graduate school.

O’Donnell is a classics and comparative literature double major from Ventura, Ca. He plans to write a senior thesis in comparative literature next year, examining classical texts through a postmodern lens. Immediately after graduation, he hopes to enter into a Ph.D. program.

O’Donnell discovered his love of languages when he studied Spanish in high school. Upon arriving at the College, he started learning Greek and found that it was a great fit for his interests. The summer after his first year at the College, O’Donnell  took an intensive Latin Course at UCLA and returned to Williams in the fall ready to embrace a major in the classics.

As for comparative literature, O’Donnell explained that he was surprised to find himself so engaged by the subject during the fall of his sophomore year. During this time, O’Donnell took a tutorial on postmodernism with Christopher Bolton, professor and chair of comparative literature. O’Donnell described the class as a “whirlwind – but one Professor Bolton was uniquely suited to ease me through.” O’Donnell said he enjoys finding intersections between the disciplines of his two majors.

“Sam is both a skilled interpreter of literary texts and a rigorous reader of even very difficult and abstract critical theory,” Bolton said.

O’Donnell said he feels lucky to have access to the faculty at the College in both the comparative literature program and the classics department. Having worked closely with Bolton and Professor of Classics Edan Dekel, O’Donnell said he is confident that, if he were to go into teaching, he would “keep my door open for my students, as [professors] always have for me.”

When he starts to apply to graduate schools, he plans to focus on interdisciplinary programs that will allow him to pursue his interests in both comparative literature and classics. He hopes to study contemporary theoretical approaches to classics and the Indo-European epic tradition. “I know Sam will do wonderful work in graduate school, and I think he is truly deserving of this prestigious fellowship,” Bolton said.