Lana English, Features Editor

          Each spring, during a special morning assembly, alum Andy Newman (‘62) announces the latest Newman Prize recipient. In the following year’s Newman Prize assembly, the recipient reappears at the podium to talk about their experience meeting an acclaimed American. Students have met individuals including entrepreneur Mark Cuban, flavorist Marie Wright, and wrestler-turned-governor Jesse Ventura. Most recently, Allie Lane (‘21) met Casar Jacobson, a deaf-rights activist, via Zoom. 

          Created by Mark Vittert (‘65) and named for late Eric Newman (‘28), the Newman Prize allows one chosen member of the junior class to meet with one American from their list of five. The application process is short: interested juniors submit an application outlining who they would like to meet, and then they have an interview with a small committee (currently composed of Andy Newman (’62), Lisa Greenman Kraner (’71), and Liberty Vittert (’06)). The committee searches for someone with character and passion- someone who embodies the enthusiastic and curious spirit of Eric Newman. The Newman Prize is one of the most familiar and treasured traditions at Burroughs, however, for the majority of the student body, the inner workings of the prize remain a mystery. How are these meetings able to take place? How are meetings with bigger celebrities like Martha Stewart scored? How does the committee choose what person to contact? 

          After a junior is chosen, the committee brainstorms any connections they, or any JBS alumni or staff, may have with the five Americans. If they have no direct connections, the committee just determines which individuals they might be able to connect with. The process is often as simple as making the right, serendipitous connection. Ms. Salrin recalls that during the first year she arrived at Burroughs she was able to connect with a fellow alum of her alma mater to arrange Jack Case’s (‘18) meeting with Greg Nicotero, the special effects supervisor on The Walking Dead. Naturally, some people don’t respond, but the committee is always successful in arranging a meeting. Three years ago, a student even met two people from their list! 

          Once there is a successful connection by the committee, Ms. Salrin and Ms. Swicord handle the logistics, such as flight arrangements and scheduling the meeting. The Newman Prize fund covers the entire trip for the student and one parent, including any accommodations they might need during the trip. The entire process is clandestine, as Allie Lane (‘21) notes that, “I had no idea who I was meeting with until Ms. Salrin approached me during lunch one day and informed me who I was meeting and where we were Zooming.” The recipient vows secrecy and cannot let any friends in on the good news until it is announced the next year.

          While being able to meet one of your biggest role models is certainly exciting, through the process of applying for the Newman Prize, everyone wins. Ms. Salrin feels that “reflecting on your values and who you would want to meet” helps students discover more about themselves. “The process is more important than who wins or who is met. It’s an opportunity to think about what’s important to you — and why,” says Ms. Vittert. Ms. Salrin strongly encourages all juniors to apply for the Newman Prize. All it takes is a low-stakes, short interview, and even if you don’t win, the process is a good opportunity for self-reflection. Plus, Ms. Salrin adds, it’s good practice for a job interview someday! 

           Although Allie Lane (‘21) was nervous before her interview, she confirms that it felt more like a casual conversation. “The time flew by amazingly fast!” she added. The Newman Prize not only offers students an opportunity to think about what they care about and who would make an impact on their life, but it allows the committee to get a pulse check of sorts on the student body by seeing who is most popular each year. During this year’s assembly, Andy Newman mentioned that Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the President, was a top pick during the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

          Almost thirty Burroughs students have received the Newman Prize thus far, and they have gained lasting and motivational pieces of wisdom from their meetings. The Newman Prize continues to foster hope and enthusiasm in the entire Burroughs student body, and it inspires students to identify their passions and what piques their curiosities in the world. 


Q + A with Jack Dreesen, Class of 2022 Newman Prize Recipient 


Jack’s Choices:

James Comey (former FBI director)

David Ortiz (former player with the Boston Red Sox)

Eric Thomas (author, pastor and motivational speaker)

Mark Wahlberg (actor, producer, restaurateur)

Christopher Wray (current FBI director) 


Q: Who would you most like to meet from your list? 


           A: “While I would love to meet all of the fantastic people on my list, I would love to meet Eric Thomas or James Comey the most. While Big Papi [David Ortiz] and Mark Wahlberg are incredible individuals, they have not had the direct impact that Eric Thomas or James Comey have had on my life.”


          “Eric Thomas’s motivational videos have influenced my athletic journey in a significant way. Ever since I started listening to him, my mindset on life and how I go about daily tasks have changed. Eric gave me the motivation to follow my dreams and attack any challenge I meet face to face.”


          “James Comey is the man who inspired me to chase my dream of becoming an FBI agent. Comey’s journey in the FBI is truly inspiring as he had overcome a lot of adversity, and it would be amazing to learn more about his journey and the advice he would offer me on my journey.”


Q: How did you choose your 5 individuals and why did you choose them? 


          A:  “I chose my five individuals by identifying my passions. I am an athlete who wants to be an FBI agent and loves helping veterans in the community. I felt that every person on my list has inspired and influenced my passion in some way. All of these individuals not only have inspired me but many others in the community as well. Overall these individuals have made a global impact and I am very excited and blessed to receive this opportunity.”