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Maria Patricia Devlin of Bronxville, N.Y., is a young woman of exceptional promise.

Maria Patricia Devlin of Bronxville, N.Y., is a young woman of exceptional promise.

That is according to the Beinecke Scholarship Program, which recently awarded the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill rising senior $34,000 for graduate school. Devlin was one of 20 recipients chosen nationwide from among 85 candidates. Across the country, 106 schools are eligible to nominate students for the Beinecke.

The scholarship, from the Sperry Fund of Fogelsville, Pa., goes to students aiming to attend graduate school in the arts, humanities and social sciences. Devlin is an English and mathematics major in the College of Arts and Sciences. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in fine arts, concentrating on fiction writing, and a doctorate in English literature at a university with a strong program in Renaissance drama.

“I plan to continue learning and teaching as a professor, writer or dramaturge,” she wrote in her Beinecke application.

Devlin’s brother, John Devlin, an Emory University alumnus, won the Beinecke in 2007. They are the first siblings to win the award since the first Beineckes were chosen in 1975, said Tom Parkinson, director of the Beinecke program.

This is not the first time that Maria Devlin’s achievements have led to a generous merit award. In 2007, she received the Thomas Wolfe Scholarship in Creative Writing, a full, four-year scholarship to UNC.

“Maria is an amazing individual,” said Linda Dykstra, Ph.D., director of the Office of Distinguished Scholarships. “Not only is she an accomplished writer, she is also a scholar who shares her intellectual gifts with admirable grace and generosity.”

Devlin was elected last year to Phi Beta Kappa and to Pi Mu Epsilon, the national mathematics honor society. She was one of 10 students inducted into the Order of the Grail-Valkyries, UNC’s intellectual honorary society.

At Carolina, Devlin became fascinated with the way in which an actor’s interpretation of a role could change the opinion of a character that one had formed previously in reading the play.

“As a student of literature, I had appreciated Shakespeare’s work as literature,” she wrote.  But subsequently, “I realized that Shakespeare’s real genius would be closed to me unless I studied his works as plays. To do this, I would have to study the theater – still better, to enter the theater itself.”

So Devlin branched out into the dramatic art department, where she worked as an assistant stage manger and a light and sound board operator, learning the inner workings of theatrical productions. During a six-week summer course in England, her class studied 10 plays and saw them performed. They wrote papers about the actors’ choices in interpreting their roles.

Now, she wrote, she can improve the 700-page draft of her first novel, which she spent three years writing. “I can sharpen characterization and heighten tension by applying the playwright’s dramatic principles and the actor’s process of creating character.”

The Sperry Fund originated as an arm of the former Sperry and Hutchinson Co. Inc., which issued S&H green stamps. William Sperry Beinecke, chairman and CEO of the company from 1966 to 1980, established the scholarship program in honor of his father and two uncles, who ran the business before him. Today the company operates as S&H Solutions, a division of YOU Technology, a marketing firm based in San Francisco and Delray Beach, Fla.

For more information about the scholarship, visit

For a news release on Devlin and the Thomas Wolfe Scholarship, visit

Photo: For a photo of Devlin, visit

Note: Devlin can be reached at

Office of Distinguished Scholarships contact: Linda Dykstra, (919) 962-6595,
News Services contact: LJ Toler, (919) 962-8589

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