Campus News

Arthur Middleton '01 Receives Watson Fellowship

Story posted April 01, 2003

Bowdoin College senior Arthur D. Middleton of Mount Pleasant, S.C., has been awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to pursue an independent research project outside the United States for one year after graduation.

An English and government major at Bowdoin, Middleton will travel to Ireland, Scotland, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and South Africa for his project "Falconry: Ancient and Modern."

Middleton became interested in wildlife at a very young age, and eventually became interested in falconry through volunteer work at the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey (SCCBP) in Awendaw, S.C. (a raptor rehab and research facility). The director of SCCBP encouraged him to visit a well-known falconer in England, which he did after his sophomore year at Bowdoin.

He stayed in Gloucestershire and Northumberland learning falconry methods for over a year, then worked for several months in Panama as a field assistant at the Peregrine Fund's Neotropical Raptor Center.

When he returned to Bowdoin he went through the falconry licensing process in Maine, and in November 2001 trapped an immature red-tailed hawk near Portland. He lived off campus and hunted with her off and on until mid-March 2003, when he released her. She is now at large, once again, in southern Maine.

In describing his project, Middleton explained that people practice falconry for a number of reasons.

“Where falconry is most ancient--in Central Asia and in the Middle East--tradition itself underlies falconry's significance and ensures its ongoing practice,” he said. “Where falconry is most modern, in the Western countries, falconry is practiced less for its historical significance and more for its value to each individual falconer. For many Western falconers, falconry provides an unusually direct relation to nature in an increasingly synthetic environment. Less commonly, falconry is important as a means of acquiring food or fur. And to every falconer in the world, some element of its significance is the challenge and the excitement it consistently presents.”

His Watson project will take Middleton to places where falconry is practiced for one or all of these reasons.

“Perhaps more importantly,” he said, “I plan to use falconry as a means to explore places I would not otherwise go, or places where the bond of knowledge between falconers can help me to transcend cultural and linguistic obstacles--to use falconry as a 'passport' to unusual places.”

Middleton is among 48 college seniors nationally who have been chosen to receive a 2003 Watson Fellowship. Each will receive $22,000 for their year of travel and study.

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program was created in 1968 by the children of Thomas J. Watson Sr., the founder of IBM Corporation, and his wife, Jeannette K. Watson, to honor their parents' long-standing interest in education and world affairs. The program identifies prospective leaders and allows them to develop their independence and to become world citizens.

"We look for extraordinary young men and women of extraordinary promise, individuals who have the personality and drive to become the leaders of tomorrow," said Norvell E. Brasch, the executive director of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program and a former fellow. "The program is designed to fund the most creative dreams of our fellows with a minimum of restrictions. The world is their canvas and we let them tell us how they want to paint it."

Nearly 1,000 students from 50 selective private liberal arts colleges and universities applied for the awards. Each student must first be nominated by their college or university, then compete on a national basis.

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