Big winners: Top Emily Couric scholarshipper gets $30K

Every year the nonprofit Emily Couric Leadership Forum picks an academic superstar demonstrating extraordinary leadership from among the seniors at each local high school– and a real-life leader. This year the life leader is award-winning investigative journalist Maureen Orth, and the top student is Charlottesville High's Jessie Press-Williams, who gets a $30,000 scholarship.

The student, one of ten seniors honored (the others get $4,000 scholarships), debates nationally, studies French and Arabic, edits the school newspaper, served on the team that won NASA's "Balloons at High Altitude Flight Competition," and presides over the CHS science club, BACON, or Best All-Round Club of Nerds. She's weighing whether to go to M.I.T. or Yale.

Vanity Fair's Orth was the speaker at this year's April 24 luncheon at the Omni hotel and recipient of the Emily Couric Women's Leadership Award.

Orth, who has covered many heads of state, said, "I often cover low people in high places." As a young woman, she joined the Peace Corps and helped build a school in Medellin, Columbia, that is named for her and is still supported by the Marina Orth Foundation.

"Keep yourself open to adventure," she urged the young women, while cautioning, "Don't mistake competition for creativity."

This was the 12th year of scholarships in honor of State Senator Emily Couric, who died in 2001. And in the small world of connections, it was Orth's late husband, Tim Russert, who first hired Katie Couric, Emily's sister, to NBC in 1989 and said she had great potential, according to Orth.

Correction: A remark made by Maureen Orth's colleague, Bob Colacello– "I do in-depth pieces on superficial people–" was mistakenly attributed to her and has been removed. And Orth's reporting has been more investigative journalism than pop culture as described in the original version.

1 comment

Impressive young lady!