When Nathan Michaux graduated from Beaver Area High School, he was smart -- but not "valedictorian smart," he said.
In May, however, he was smart enough to graduate as valedictorian from Washington & Jefferson College.
He also has been named one of 15 winners nationally of the 2013 Gilder Lehrman History Scholar Award. The award honors outstanding graduating college seniors who have demonstrated academic extracurricular excellence in American history or American studies.
"I was a little bit more serious about my studies," said Mr. Michaux, who graduated with a degree in history.
As a recipient of the Lehrman award, he went to New York City with the other awardees.
"We were given access to the vaults of the Gilder Lehrman Collection, which was amazing," Mr. Michaux said. The honorees were able to look at letters George Washington wrote, see a lock of Patrick Henry's hair and view other interesting, albeit odd, pieces of history.
During their stay in New York City, they were able to go behind the scenes at several historical archives and sites and meet with scholars, including Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Adrienne Petty and Kenneth T. Jackson. They also visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture along with the Lehrman Collection. The trip was important for a history buff like Mr. Michaux.
"For one thing, it validates that history is still relevant, still important," he said. "For another thing, it was a great chance to hang out with other history geeks."
Mr. Michaux will take his history knowledge this fall to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., where he will attend law school.
"I'm not sure what type of law I want to specialize in. I just want to be open to learning. That's my plan for now," he said
"I've always been very much enamored with history. My best friend's dad was a history teacher and would take us along on his trips," Mr. Michaux said.
Mr. Michaux has spent the summer working in a store in Punxsutawney, where his parents, Tim and Lisa, recently moved from Beaver because his father accepted a position as pastor of First Assembly of God Church. He has three brothers, Tim, Gabe and Paul.
In addition to the Gilder Lehrman award, Mr. Michaux has received the Alfred Henry Sweet Prize in History, the Robert Harbison Bible Prize, the Maria Leonard Senior Book Award, the Henry Willson Temple Prize in History and the 2013 Rotary Club of Washington's Student Academic Award. He also was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.neigh_west - neigh_washington
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: email@example.com.