April 12, 2011

Christopher Spaide ’11 has received a prestigious scholarship from the Keasbey Memorial Foundation to support two years of graduate study at Oxford University in England.

Spaide's creative writing thesis is titled Revenge of the Mastodons!!!.

A double major in English and music at Amherst, he plans to earn a master of studies (M.St.) degree in English language and literature, concentrating on 1900 to the present, followed by a M.St. in music with a focus on musicology. His ultimate goal is to become “the sort of professor who can make great literature and music relevant to the 21st century.”

In his application essay for the Keasbey Scholarship, Spaide wrote of growing up as the proverbial ugly duckling in a math-and-science-oriented family: with “an ophthalmologist father, a biologist mother, [and] a mathematician brother,” young Chris was always “the only one quacking at the dinner table about symphonies and sonnet sequences.” He addressed recent rapid technological innovations—such as the rise of e-books and the advent of Twitter—and their effects on the publishing industry and the attention spans of the public. “If we want upcoming generations to appreciate art, we need thinkers and teachers that can present art as a relevant, worthwhile alternative to the distractions of the modern age,” he said, noting, “[My future students] might be interested to learn that their favorite television shows owe something to the serialized novels of Charles Dickens, or that the thought experiments of Jorge Luis Borges eerily predict the innovations of Google. The world of art is surprisingly vast and always current—as a student, I have found it fascinating, and I cannot wait to explore it as a teacher.”

Spaide graduated from The Dalton School in New York City before arriving at Amherst, where he has excelled, often taking five or six courses in a semester and always maintaining a near-perfect GPA. Among other jobs and activities, he has worked as a tutor for the philosophy department, a research assistant in the European studies department, a Computer Center supervisor, a humor writer and editor for The Indicator student magazine and a guitarist with the Amherst College Jazz Ensemble. He used a MacArthur-Leithauser Travel Award to journey to Iceland to study the shared roots of the English and Icelandic languages. He has won the Collin Armstrong Poetry Prize and is one of just six students invited this year to participate in Mount Holyoke College’s Glascock Poetry Contest.

Spaide is currently working a senior thesis in each of his two majors. Advised by Klára Móricz, the Joseph E. and Grace W. Valentine Visiting Assistant Professor of Music, he is writing an analytical music thesis titled “Building a Home: Ideological Strains in 20th-Century American Music.” And he is crafting a portfolio of original poetry under the guidance of Writer-in-Residence Daniel Hall—who calls Spaide, in his Keasbey recommendation letter, “quite simply the best student, and most talented student poet, I have ever met.” Spaide believes that having worked closely with these two professors will enable him to adapt easily to the renowned tutorial system at Oxford, where he is especially eager to learn from Professor of Poetry Geoffrey Hill and Musicology Professor Peter Franklin.

In nominating Spaide for the Keasbey Scholarship, Fellowships Coordinator Denise Murphy Gagnon wrote on behalf of the Faculty Committee on Student Fellowships, “In the years to come, we expect Chris to occupy a leading position in the intellectual life of our country.”

The Henry Griffith Keasbey and Anna Griffith Keasbey Memorial Foundation, established by Marguerite Keasbey in honor of her parents in 1953, aims to promote Anglo-American relations by allowing Americans to experience the British educational system. The foundation awards scholarships to support two-year terms of study at selected universities in the United Kingdom. Amherst is one of a small group of U.S. institutions periodically invited to nominate candidates to the national competition. Past Keasbey winners from Amherst include Herrick “Cricket” Fisher ’05, Gabriel Mattera '05 and Melvin Rogers ’99.