"A Fresh Commitment and Real Opportunity"

The 11th Annual Whitten Maher Memorial Scholarship


For over a decade, the Whitten Maher Memorial Scholarship has celebrated the work of creative and principled communicators who express the most fundamental emotional truths.

In early 2010, senior Breeze Senior Writer/Columnist Whitten Maher surveyed the prospects for the last season of 24, a TV show he had engaged years earlier as a freshman. Storm clouds are gathering, prospects look bleak, and a world-weary Jack Bauer stands in for an audience confronting its own "battered, broken idealism."

2023 WMMS recipient Moriah McDonald with Chip Maher

2023 WMMS recipient Moriah McDonald at the annual awards ceremony with Chip Maher, Whitten Maher's father.

McDonald's winning submission titled "How I Learned to Combat the Effects of Racial Battle Fatigue" is "a memory; it is my journey of self-consciousness, personal circumspection, awakening, and, finally, acceptance of myself and the world around me."

"I am Moriah McDonald, the daughter of Melissa, a doctoral candidate, the granddaughter of Carolyn, a career secretary, the great-granddaughter of Leila, a sharecropper, and the great-great-granddaughter of Hattie, a Georgian slave." 

Maher never settled for the easy route through his four years as a Breeze reporter, Opinion page editor, Design Editor, and Senior Writer/Columnist, but he always offered his readers a way forward, and his entry on the final season of 24 is no different: "We have a fresh commitment and real opportunity."

Maher's commitment, activism, and belief in the power of writing and design are evident throughout his work:

  • "And So We March," a column covering the 2009 National Equality March in Washington, D.C.: "The sight was a powerful one: Thousands of men and women standing in front of the Capitol, calling for rights that politicians should have recognized long ago."
  • "For You, Wherever You Are," a column Maher wrote "because I wish I could have read something like this in my college newspaper before I came out."
  • "At the End of the Day," a farewell column in which Maher urged his JMU readers to "Discover your passion and take advantage of all the people you meet herereally engage with them."

The Whitten Maher Memorial Scholarship was established to acknowledge and support academic and nonacademic writing and design that conveys the compassion, intensity and well-informed reason of its namesake, whose premature death on December 20, 2012, cut short a promising career in writing and design.

In 2023, Moriah McDonald (Psychology, '23) joined a list of 17 JMU sophomores, juniors, and returning seniors who have been awarded a Whitten Maher Memorial Scholarship since the scholarship's inception in 2013.

The 2023-2024 Whitten Maher Memorial Scholarship is open to all returning JMU undergraduates in all of their different academic and nonacademic disciplines, genres, and media. All WMMS recipients are awarded at least $1,000. The 2024 extended submission deadline is March 10. Writing- and/or design-based submissions should engage one or more of the following concerns:

  • educate audiences through a civic purpose,
  • promote empathy rather than derision, and/or
  • seek to encourage populations who feel unrecognized or misunderstood

The Whitten Maher Memorial Scholarship website offers complete submission guidelines. The site also features a selection of Maher’s Breeze columns in their original print format, along with remembrances from his JMU and Demos colleagues. For a more extended journey through Maher’s work, type “Whitten Maher” into The Breeze site’s search bar.

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Published: Sunday, March 3, 2024

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 14, 2024

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