Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

  • Judith Stapleton '12
  • Judith Stapleton '12

Judith Stapleton:
2012 Recipient of the Williamson Medal

The following citation was presented at Franklin & Marshall College’s Commencement Ceremony on May 12, 2012:

Judith Stapleton is an extraordinary student, exemplary campus leader and a kind and humble person of unsurpassed personal integrity. She graduates ranked second in the Class of 2012 with honors in Art History and a minor in Italian. She spent both the summer of 2010 and the spring of 2011 studying in Italy. Judith has also been an influential figure at the College’s Writing Center for three years and served as head tutor during her senior year. As a senior she has also engaged the Lancaster community by partnering with classmates May Aung and Rukshana Tuli to found an organization called Atma. The initiative, a Franklin Innovation Challenge winner, is dedicated to empowering local refugee women by hosting bi-weekly workshops and helping the women market their artisan products.

Judith’s journey to F&M was somewhat unusual. Born in Scotland to a Scottish “mum” and an English dad, she lived until age 8 in Hertfordshire, England, an hour north of London. Her parents then moved to Connecticut, where Judith resided until receiving a letter inviting her to enroll at Franklin & Marshall in the fall of 2008. Being an adventurous spirit, Judith opted to enroll via what was then known as the College’s January program, and spent a gap semester in Europe. After a three-week camping trip during which she visited 11 European countries, Judith settled in Glasglow, Scotland, where she lived with her sister and waited tables at a local restaurant. Judith regards this as the period that sharpened her appreciation for the opportunity to attend Franklin & Marshall, and she arrived in January 2009 hungry to engage the intellectual life of the institution. In November 2010 Judith also became a naturalized citizen of the United States and now holds dual citizenship both here and in the United Kingdom, a status shared by her parents.

Relationships with faculty and other students have been a defining feature of Judith’s time at F&M. Indeed, she started building them even before arriving on campus. During her gap semester in 2008, she traveled from Scotland to London so that she could meet in person with her first academic adviser, Professor Kabi Hartman. They met in the basement café at Waterstone’s bookstore in Bloomsbury and went over her course schedule for the spring. Like other relationships that Judith has enjoyed at F&M, this one has been sustained for four years and included meetings at the Chestnut Hill Café, Jazzman’s and Professor Hartman’s home. Indeed, Judith even borrowed a pile of books about the Bloomsbury group from Kabi — which she still needs to return.

During her seven semesters at F&M, Judith has established herself as a promising scholar of art history. Although she arrived at the College fairly certain that she would major in Art History, Judith nurtured that interest through grants she received from the College. After her sophomore year, she used a travel grant to study Byzantine art in Italy, and during the summer following her junior year, a Marshall Scholar grant enabled Judith to visit England to continue her study of Byzantine art. It was during this second trip that her intellectual curiosity led to a diversion that has become the topic of her senior honors thesis and may well occupy her scholarly attention for some years to come. Specifically, she vis-ited and became fascinated with a place called Charleston House, which served as the base for a small community of esoteric modern artists known as the Bloomsbury Group. In describing Judith’s senior thesis, Professor Amelia Rauser observes, “Judith is an exceptional intellect. A less ambitious student might have chosen an element of the house or the output of an artist to pursue, but Judith has been in-terested in the big picture from the beginning — how the aesthetic theories of Roger Fry and Clive Bell and the modernist feminist literature of Virginia Woolf integrate with the seemingly spontaneous decoration of the house and the unconventional lives of the artists who lived there.”

The Writing Center has also played a significant role in Judith’s life at F&M, and she equally has left her mark on the Center. Enrolling mid-year as she did, Judith initially found it difficult to integrate into campus life. Life changed for the better, however, when she was chosen as a writing tutor. Center Director Dan Frick and the team of tutors quickly became a community where Judith put down her roots. In turn, Judith showed herself to be a natural leader. Her ability to work well with students, her talents at leading in-class writing workshops, and her overall dedication to the Center led to Judith being offered the head tutor position for 2011 – 2012, when she was still a sophomore. In describing her performance, Professor Frick says, “She led by example, never asking anything from the staff that she wasn’t already doing herself. Such an attitude inspired a deep loyalty from the other tutors. Not coincidentally, during this year when the Center has been able to operate at record levels — we’ve never been busier — staff morale remained high. . . . Judith is a person of such exceptional quality, she makes the unprecedented seem ordinary.”

Judith’s passion for the written word has also influenced her other leadership choices. She has served as layout editor for the student literary magazine Epilogue, associate editor of the nonfiction magazine College Dispatch and art editor for Plume. Finally, her accomplished approach to the art of writing prompted Professor Frick to invite Judith to serve as the preceptor for his first-year seminar “America in the Age of Nixon.”

Judith also exemplifies the intellectual ethos that the Faculty Dons seek to foster in the College Houses. She formed a mentoring relationship with Ware College House Don Joel Eigen and sought his advice in developing both her plans for summer study in Italy and her Marshall Scholar project. Judith was also a ubiquitous presence at the signature Ware College House bagel breakfasts, where she enjoyed both lively conversation and meeting students she might otherwise never have encountered. She presented her final research project on the influence of Byzantium on the Bloomsbury Set to fellow Marshall scholars over a dinner in the Ware Den. House Don Joel Eigen says of Judith: “When I think of the reasons that animated my interest in being a House Don, it was to work closely with the Judith Stapletons in the student body. She inspires others with a quiet, determined purpose and an inquisitiveness that seems boundless. She’s probably the loudest ‘silent leader’ in the House.”

After spending a year working at Franklin & Marshall, Judith plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Art History.

Judith, we admire your serious yet playful intellect, your selfless style of leadership and the character of the relationships that you have built while a student. You clearly exemplify the qualities of intellect, creativity and character that the College seeks to foster in its students. On behalf of the faculty and administration, I invite you to accept this Williamson Medal.