The Thouron Award is a prestigious postgraduate scholarship established in 1960 by Sir John R.H. Thouron, K.B.E., and Esther du Pont Thouron. It was created to strengthen the "special relationship" between the United States and the United Kingdom through educational exchange between British universities and the University of Pennsylvania. Through the programme the Thourons sought to nourish and develop Anglo-American friendship by ensuring that, in the years to come, a growing number of the leading citizens of these two countries would have a thorough understanding of their trans-Atlantic neighbours. In the years since its founding, the Thouron Award has sponsored programs of graduate study for more than 650 fellows, known as Thouron Scholars.
Graduates of British universities receive support for up to two years of study – in any degree course – at the University of Pennsylvania, and Penn graduates may study at any university in the U.K. with up to two years of support. The Award, among the most generous exchange fellowships in the world, pays tuition and a stipend that covers room, board, and such extras as entertainment and travel.
The Exchange Programme was set up to bring young people of exceptional ability from each country into contact with the ideas and peoples of the other country. The experience of sharing different ways of life, of studying in a new academic and cultural environment, and of confronting viewpoints and assumptions that have long and varied pasts, fosters personal enrichment and maturity and contributes to deeper understanding of the people and the traditions of each country.
The founders of the Award believed that recipients of the Award should be chosen as much for their personal abilities and leadership potential as for their scholastic ability. Accordingly, Thouron Scholars are chosen on the basis of their "ambassadorial qualities" as well as their ability to succeed in their chosen academic programs. A primary goal in selection is find individuals who are deemed ready to represent their home country while being open to the different perspectives of the country in which they conduct their academic program.
One aspect of the Thouron Award which somewhat differentiates it from other fellowships is the close involvement of a specific family - the Thouron family, beginning with Sir John R.H. Thouron, continuing through his son Tiger and now his grandson Rupert. The family has welcomed every Thouron Scholar into what they deem to be their "extended family" by inviting them into their homes, entertaining them, and maintaining long-term contact with them. This extended family, due to the diverse geographical spread of its constituents, is very much a global entity.
In the autumn of 1960, three British students, a geologist, an economist and a landscape architect, began their courses of study at the University of Pennsylvania as the first Thouron Fellows. In 1961, two graduates of the University of Pennsylvania arrived in the United Kingdom, an economist to the London School of Economics and a classicist to Balliol College, Oxford, as the first Fellows from the United States. Since that time over 500 Fellows have been selected.
Thouron Fellows have pursued degrees in a wide variety of fields. British Fellows have studied in all of the graduate and professional schools of the University of Pennsylvania. American Fellows have attended some 53 British educational institutions, with Cambridge, Oxford and the University of London attracting the majority of the Penn students. In the 50 years of its existence, the Thouron Award has played an influential role in the lives and careers of its alumni. As new Thouron Fellows cross the Atlantic each year to take up or continue their studies, it seems that the program of cooperation is growing and strengthening.
The Thouron family has also established a Thouron Prize for Summer Study at Pembroke College in the University of Cambridge for undergraduate students. The award is granted to eight or nine rising juniors and seniors from Harvard, Yale, and Penn, with typically three students selected from each university.
The students receive a full scholarship to travel and spend two months studying at the University of Cambridge in the Pembroke-King's Programme. The Thouron Prize covers the full cost of the program. In addition, recipients are given a seminar series from Sir Roger Tomkys, a former Master of Pembroke College.Competition for the prizes is often fierce, and the universities typically have their own mechanism for initial nomination. Nominees are then passed onto the consideration of members of the Thouron family, who personally hold interviews with all the nominees before coming to a final decision.
The Thouron Prize is sometimes seen as the sophomore/junior analog of the Rhodes or Marshall Scholarships; however, the latter can only be applied to during one's senior year and typically cover two years of graduate study rather than one undergraduate summer.
Similar to the goals of the other British fellowships, the Thouron Prize endeavors to give undergraduates "an understanding of both shared and differing aspects of British and American culture."At least one student who won the undergraduate Thouron Prize later went on to win the graduate Thouron Award as well. At least two Thouron Prize winners have also gone on to win the Rhodes Scholarship.
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