Erin Murr named first recipient of Ken Tuck International Study Award
From Maryville College
Erin Murr has never traveled to a foreign country, used public transportation or lived in a residence hall, but she’ll experience all of that in January, when she travels to study for a semester at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, Northern Ireland.
“It’s terrifying, but I’m looking forward to it,” said the Maryville College junior from Greenback. “I really want to put myself in situations where it’s not predictable, where I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”
Murr, the daughter of James and Lynne Murr and a 2010 graduate of Greenback High School, will be a participant in the Irish-American Scholars Program, which is a bilateral exchange between the College and the University of Ulster through the Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities.
Only 27 students from the United States have been accepted for study in Northern Ireland next semester, so the program is incredibly competitive.
Murr will be the only student from a Tennessee college or university.
Murr chose Northern Ireland, in part, because of her own Scots-Irish lineage.
A history major, she also was intrigued by opportunities to study the religious history of Ireland and European history.
“I want to understand European history from the viewpoint of Europeans,” she explained.
While she’s studying at the University of Ulster, Murr hopes to be housed with other international students and take short trips to nearby Scotland, England and France.
“I hope to get so much out of this experience,” she said.
“For me, this may be the most economical way to experience other countries – and the only time in my life I’ll be able to go.
Traveling for all the right reasons
Murr’s reasons for studying abroad are exactly what inspired alumnus Ken Tuck and his wife, Sara, to establish the Tuck International Study Endowment last year and make another donation this year that doubles the size of the endowment.
Murr will be the first recipient of the Ken Tuck International Study Award, which is funded by the endowment.
“Study abroad expands and enhances your education,” said Ken, who graduated in 1954 and went on to a successful career in ophthalmology that continues to this day in Roanoke, Va. “These experiences change lives, and I am passionate about the development of the College’s international program.
It has the potential to greatly strengthen the Maryville College academic and cultural experience for many students, as well as the value of a Maryville College diploma in our complex and changing world.”
Ken didn’t study internationally as an undergraduate at Maryville, but meeting students at Maryville College who came from all over the East Coast was as much a cultural eye-opener as he had ever experienced growing up in rural Moneta, Va.
Representing his profession nationally and internationally, Ken has traveled extensively and developed relationships with people of different ethnicities, faiths and economic backgrounds. The Tucks were able to provide their daughters with international experiences while in college.
When grandson Peter Coats attended Maryville College from 2004 until his graduation in 2009, the couple made it possible for Coats to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the College for travel-study.
Sharing a dream
By doubling the size of the endowment, more students will be able to study abroad – just what Ken and Sara Tuck intend.
“I heard that 85 percent of freshmen at Maryville College last year indicated that they would like to have an international experience while they’re enrolled, but many can’t afford it,” said Ken, who serves on the College’s Board of Directors. “We want to remove barriers to that dream.
Murr intends to use the award to pay for her residence hall room on the Coleraine campus. That will allow her to use the money she has been saving since high school for a study abroad experience on trips into other countries.
Sending scholars and ambassadors
Ken Tuck’s great-grandfather emigrated from Ireland to Virginia, so the Tucks have visited the Emerald Isle to learn more about those familial origins.
Although they didn’t visit Northern Ireland, Ken said he believes the residents there will treat Murr as hospitably as he and his wife were treated in the Republic of Ireland.
And he recognizes that she will be an ambassador – for the college, as well as the United States – while she is abroad. “More people abroad will have heard of Maryville College because of Erin’s study abroad experience,” he said.
“So ours is an investment in the College, as well as in the student.”