"Speaking up in a Sea of Silence": Remembering Whitten Maher

Whitten Maher heading extended deadline 2017


for more information and to submit your work, visit the Whitten Maher Memorial Scholarship website.

Read any Breeze article by Whitten Maher—here are nine of them—and you'll appreciate the JMU Foundation Scholarship that the Maher family has founded in his name.

Whitten Maher argued for reason and responsibility in a world consumed by the "rage and rhetoric of revolution." He found room for “the engagement of two people and a frank, heartfelt discussion” in our increasingly partisan culture.  And in a society where it's easier to be counted than it is to stand up, Maher wrote for and to LGBT students to let them know they are not alone.

In his final Breeze column, Maher observed that he wrote even when it seemed no one was listening. But we were, and we are—because we still have much to learn from his writing on topics ranging from popular culture:

“It was the marriage of [the real-time] format with our deepest cultural fears that solidified Jack Bauer’s place in our cultural zeitgeist

to politics:

 “Palin ushers us fully into the latest era of politics, where “star quality” equals constant coverage and trumps merit, hands down”

to social activism:

“It wasn’t until Sunday that I fully felt the impetus that drives so many others to the passion that borders on fury. It’s a frustration with compromise and political cowardice, and although the methods might seem ineffective or self-indulgent, what else is there to do?”

Insights like these can be found throughout Whitten Maher's work as a Breeze writer, designer, and Opinion editor. As one of Maher's colleagues at New York-based research and policy center Demos recalls, "Whitten . . . loved the world of ideas, and would stay up nights talking about the past, the future, and our place in the great sweep of history. He lived his short years on this planet to the fullest, and left an indelible mark on me and on all of his colleagues.”

The Whitten Maher Memorial Scholarship

The Whitten Maher Memorial Scholarship commemorates Maher, who passed away on December 20, 2012, at the age of 25. “As tragic as Whitten’s death will always be,” one of Maher’s professors says, “he has given us an opportunity to create something that honors the great potential he had, a potential that lives in others.”

Previous Whitten Maher Memorial Scholarship recipients Corey Tierney ('15), Victoria Price ('15), Lauren Hunt ('16), Tyler Garza ('17), and Adaoma Okafor ('17) were recognized for written- and design-based compositions that exemplify advice Maher offered in his final column:

As for advice? I would simply say this: Discover your passion and take advantage of all the people you meet here—really engage with them. If you’re going to do something, do it well. Do it for the right reason.

Now in its fourth year, the Whitten Maher Memorial Scholarship encourages and recognizes academic and nonacademic writing or design that conveys the compassion, intensity, and well-informed reasoning that were so much a part of Whitten Maher’s character. The $1,000 scholarship is open to all returning JMU undergraduates in all academic disciplines.

The Whitten Maher Memorial Scholarship website features a selection of Whitten Maher's Breeze columns in their original print format, along with remembrances from his JMU and Demos colleagues. For a more extended journey through Whitten Maher's work, vitsit The Breeze website and search for "Whitten Maher."

The submission deadline for the 2017 scholarship has been extended through February 13, 2017. To submit, visitWhitten Maher Memorial Scholarship website.

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Published: Monday, January 23, 2017

Last Updated: Thursday, June 25, 2020

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