Vayne Ong of Princeton University and Sean Graham of Centenary University have received the 2020 Paul A. Stellhorn Undergraduate New Jersey History Award, which recognizes outstanding undergraduate scholarship and writing about a subject in the state’s history.
Ms. Ong received the Stellhorn Award for her senior honors thesis titled “Springwood Avenue Rising: Race, Leisure, and Decline in the 1970 Asbury Park Rising.” In her thesis she describes the events of early July 1970, which included protests by members of the city’s black community at conditions under which black people lived and worked in Asbury Park; violent reactions to a growing police presence during the demonstrations and by police officers during the latter stages of the protests; and inconclusive negotiations between the city and the protesters’ representatives seeking improvements in living and working conditions. Asbury Park’s economic decline during the decade some observers saw as caused by the protests and the violence that accompanied them.
Ms. Ong received an AB in history from Princeton in June 2020, with a certificate in Urban Studies. Her thesis also received the Princeton Prize in Race Relations Senior Thesis Prize and Dean Hank Dobin Prize in Community-Engaged Work. She has worked as a research assistant for the Princeton/Mellon Initiative of the university’s School of Architecture in 2019, and for the Department of Sociology in 2018.
Her varied work experiences also include service as a marketing/information/ technological intern for the Princeton Art Museum; a graphic designer for the Princeton University Center for Collaborative History; a scholar-intern for the American Geographical Society; an intern for the Regional Authority of Frankfurt am Main, Germany; program coordinator for the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program. She was president of the Princeton Women’s Alliance, and captain of Princeton Bhangra (a dance company that represents the university in national intercollegiate competitions). She is currently a Program and Policy Fellow at Women Creating Change, a women’s civic engagement organization in New York City, through Princeton AlumniCorps.
Mr. Graham’s award-winning Centenary University paper is titled “The Origins of Centenary Collegiate Institute: A Story of Industrialization, Wealth, and Natural Resources.” Centenary University’s ancestor, the Centenary Collegiate Institute, was founded at Hackettstown in 1867 by the Newark Methodist Conference. Mr. Graham wrote that five factors led to choosing Hackettstown: The Morris & Essex Railroad made the town accessible from any part of the country; the town’s strong economy; the “famous” water sourced from Schooley’s Mountain which many believed to be the cleanest and healthiest in the state; Trinity Methodist Church’s close proximity to the proposed site of the school; and the ten Hackettstown citizens who donated $10,000 and ten acres of land for the school.
Mr. Graham expects to graduate in May 2021 with a BA in education and a concentration in social studies. He has also studied German history at Berlin, Germany’s, Freie University during a semester abroad in the Spring of 2019. He has been student teaching during the fall 2020 term (seventh and eighth grades) at the Green Township School in Green Township, Sussex County. He has also worked as a substitute teacher for the Washington Township (Warren County) school district. For four summers, 2016-19, Mr. Graham worked for the Warren County ARC providing direct care support to intellectually disabled children and adults.
At Centenary, Mr. Graham serves as a student leader through his positions as a resident assistant and a first-year leader. He has also served as the co-president of the Centenary History Club from 2018 to 2020. He is a member of the Centenary honors society and the recipient of the university's Presidential Scholarship.
Read Mr. Graham’s award-winning paper at the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance’s website, njsaa.org. The online journal, New Jersey Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal (njs.libraries.rutgers.edu/index.php/njs/index), will publish both papers in its winter 2021 (January) issue.
The Stellhorn Award is sponsored by the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance; the New Jersey Historical Commission (New Jersey Department of State); the New Jersey Caucus of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference; and the Department of Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.
For information about the 2021 Stellhorn Award, contact Richard Waldron, firstname.lastname@example.org.