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Recent Lafayette graduate William Simmons ’04 of Mercerville, N.J., has been awarded a Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholarship.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation awarded 39 scholarships worth up to $50,000 each per year to college seniors or recent graduates to attend graduate or professional programs. Simmons, who plans to attend Rutgers School of Law-Newark, was selected as a recipient from among 1,226 applicants representing 747 colleges and universities.

Scholarship recipients “show not only exceptional academic ability, but also a strong will to succeed and other qualities including demonstrated critical thinking, a love of music or art, a sense of service, a love of the arts or humanities. Each of these attributes was important to Mr. Cooke,” says Matthew J. Quinn, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which identifies and supports young people of special intelligence, application, deportment, and character who have financial need and demonstrated excellence in academic endeavors and extracurricular activities.

“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. “We could write a book about these 39 wonderful young people, with 39 different chapters woven together by hard work, desire, and spirit.”

The Cooke Foundation’s scholarships are the largest and among the most competitive in the country.

Simmons’ award caps an outstanding year for Lafayette recipients of prestigious national and international scholarships and fellowships for undergraduate and post-graduate study.

A Marquis Scholar, Simmons graduated from Lafayette in May summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree, majoring in English and philosophy. He is a recipient of Lafayette’s Class of 1883 Prize and Gilbert Prize, both given annually for excellence in English.

As a junior, he researched the philosophical concepts of logical and physical possibility as an EXCEL Scholar working with Julie H. Yoo, assistant professor of philosophy. In Lafayette’s EXCEL program, students collaborate closely with faculty members on research projects while earning a stipend. The program has helped make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate in EXCEL each year share their work through articles in academic journals and/or conference presentations

In the first semester of his senior year Simmons did an independent study on the nature of justice under the direction of Owen McLeod, assistant professor of philosophy.

“The project had a completely different focus from my EXCEL research,” Simmons says. “The topic of justice excites me. Since our legal system is often called a ‘justice system’ I see it as appropriate and fitting that I examine exactly what we mean by that and how I can contribute to the doing of justice in my future career.

“I think the most important part of the curriculum at any school is the faculty, and I have found the faculty in both the English and philosophy departments superb in their knowledge, teaching ability, and mentoring strategies,” he says.

Simmons was a participant in Lafayette’s McKelvy House Scholars program. Since 1962, the program has brought together students with a wide range of majors and interests to reside in an historic off-campus house and share in intellectual and social activities. Weekly Sunday dinner discussions engaging the students in debate and exchanges of ideas that continue long after the meals are over are the hallmark of the program.

He served summer internships in the office of the district attorney of Montgomery County, Pa., and the office of the prosecutor of Mercer County, N.J.

A member of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national honorary society for men and women studying political science, Simmons joined Lafayette’s mock trial team as a first-year student, during the team’s second year of competition, and continued in mock trial throughout his four years at the College, twice competing in American Mock Trial Association national tournaments.

As a Writing Associate in the College Writing Program, Simmons assisted students in preparing writing assignments for their courses, including the first-year seminar Great Transformations: Life and Work in a Time of Mighty Change taught by Thomas Norton, professor of sociology, and the VAST (Values and Science/Technology) seminar Forms of Folklore taught by Susan Niles, professor of anthropology. As a senior Simmons was a Writing Associate mentor. In addition to serving as Writing Associates themselves, mentors provide other Writing Associates with additional training and support.

Simmons attended the National Conference on Peer Tutors in Writing during his sophomore year. He made a presentation, with Heather Bastian ’03 and others, entitled “Present, Past, and Future: Centering a Writing Program by Using Its History” that was based on Bastian’s research.

He appeared in Lafayette College Theater productions of Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile and A Tempest, the latter a special outdoor staging at McKelvy House.

For three years he participated in the Kids in the Community (KIC) Summer Camp, helping conduct a day camp for low-income children from elementary to middle school in the week before classes begin. He also participated in the Kids in Community Program. Both KIC and KIC Camp are among more than 25 programs of voluntary community service conducted by Lafayette students each year through the College’s Landis Community Outreach Center.

Jack Kent Cooke was a businessman, sportsman, and philanthropist. His business interests included ownership of professional sports teams, such as the Washington Redskins, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings, and Toronto Maple Leafs minor league baseball club. He also owned a thoroughbred racing farm in Lexington, Ky. Among his other businesses were newspapers, magazines, radio stations, cable television, and real estate holdings, including the Chrysler Building in New York City. Cooke died April 6, 1997, and left most of his fortune to establish the foundation.

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