Brief History of the Fenwick Fellow Program

In early 1983, a proposal to establish a library fellowship was submitted to the Faculty Senate Library Committee by Louella Wetherbee, director of Fenwick Library, Mason’s only library at the time. Several months later, draft guidelines were established that enabled Fenwick Library to award a fellowship each year to assist the research efforts of a tenured Mason faculty member.

In fall 1983, the first Senior Fenwick Fellowship was awarded to Barry Beyer, PhD, Department of Education, for his proposal, “Research Project on Analytical Thinking.” Since 1983 the Fenwick Fellowship recipients have researched a myriad topics.

The early guidelines stipulated that the fellow would receive exclusive use of a “large research office in Fenwick equipped with a desk, file cabinet, shelving, and a typewriter.” The fellow also was allocated a stipend of $1,000 to cover such services as computer searches, interlibrary loan requests, and book purchases falling within the University Libraries’ collection development policies. Upon completion of the fellowship, the Faculty Senate Library Committee would receive a brief, three- to five-page written report stating benefits, work completed, and an evaluation of the Fenwick Fellow Program. Today, the award is $5,000, and fellows must present a public lecture on the results of their research the year after their fellowship.

Over the program’s more than 30 years, the University Libraries’ collections have been enriched by the research materials and books accumulated during the fellows’ terms. Many scholarly journal articles and books were published by Mason faculty members based on their one-year fellowship research. The program serves as a reminder of the University Libraries’ continuing role in contributing to and enhancing the scholarly pursuits of those who immerse themselves in its offerings.

In a memo to Wetherbee, thanking her for information on Fenwick fellowships, Mason’s president at the time, George Johnson, said, “I continue to think this a brilliant idea.”  It was then and remains so today.