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The Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarship

Professor Chris Palmer, Director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, and his wife Gail Shearer have established a $50,000 endowment at American University. The scholarship honors Chris's parents, Mavis and Sidney John Palmer.

Merit scholarships will be awarded annually, to an outstanding graduate student in SOC with an interest in environmental, natural history, or wildlife filmmaking. Scholarship recipients will be selected by a faculty committee. Committee members will review and evaluate a one-page essay from applicants, detailing the student’s aspirations and interest in the field of environmental, natural history, or wildlife filmmaking. Based on this information, the committee will select a recipient. 

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Scholarship Recipients

August 1, 2014 Announcement from Dean Jeff Rutenbeck: I'm pleased to announce this year's recipients of the Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarships: Vanina Harel, Marilyn Stone, Jamey Warner, and Nick Zachar

The scholarship was set up in 2013 by Professor Chris Palmer and his wife, Gail Shearer, to honor Chris's parents. Chris and Gail established an endowment to support the scholarship. Income from the fund is awarded annually, based on merit, to outstanding SOC graduate students with an interest in environmental and wildlife filmmaking.

Nick Zachar

Vanina Harel studied biology at the University of Bristol in the UK after leaving Mauritius five years ago and is now enrolled in the MFA in Film and Electronic Media at American University. She is passionate about making environmental and wildlife films that make a difference through entertainment. Last summer, she spent two months in South Africa and Botswana working on a rhino conservation project, for which she is currently producing a short documentary. She is also the associate producer on a short film about sustainable farming in the Piedmont region for the Prince Charitable Trusts. This summer, she is interning at National Geographic channel, and in the research stage of a documentary on coral reef conservation in Mauritius. 

Nick Zachar

Marilyn Stone is teaching filmmaking to young students in Virginia and working as a photographer for Wesley Theological Seminary. While earning her B.S. in Wildlife &Fisheries Sciences at Texas A&M University, Marilyn dreamed of a career as a wildlife filmmaker. During this time, she studied abroad in southern Africa and soon after painted a 120 square foot Texas wildlife mural in the wildlife sciences building. After graduation, she was able to film the first study abroad to Mongolia focused on snow leopard conservation genetics with the Texas A&M Vet College and the Snow Leopard Conservancy. Marilyn has also volunteered with Houston Zoo, a wildlife rehab clinic, museum educational animals, the Audubon Society, as well as modeled and acted.

Nick Zachar

Jamey Warner is a second year graduate student, a Marine Corps combat veteran, and currently works as an editor and cinematographer for Earth Focus, a nationally syndicated show featuring investigative reports and in-depth stories about our changing environment. He's produced and edited stories on the decline of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, combat veterans turning to sustainable farming, and impacts of climate change on national security. Jamey has shot in the middle of a honeybee swarm for a story about a third generation beekeeper who lost his hives due to harmful insecticide use nearby. He is currently shooting a story about a paralyzed veteran who has turned to surfing and who has created his own non-profit that trains rescue-to-service dogs for combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic injuries and post-traumatic stress.

Nick Zachar

Nick Zachar is a filmmaker currently pursuing his MFA in Film and Electronic Media. Nick's background in Biology has taken him to the Virgin Islands, where he traveled with a team of biologists on an expedition to aid efforts in the conservation of a critically endangered species of iguana. As a graduate student at American University, Nick has had the opportunity to film on the Chesapeake Bay aboard Coast Guard vessels and hike through Costa Rican rainforests. During his recent travels to Costa Rica he combined his passions for the natural world and film by documenting fellow graduate students addressing AU's commitment to carbon neutrality. Nick strives to find and share meaningful stories that shed light on environmental and wildlife issues, and he hopes that his films will inspire viewers to take action.

Congratulations to Vanina, Marilyn, Jamey, and Nick for earning the Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarships for this year.

Jeff Rutenbeck
Dean, SOC

The History of Mavis and Sidney John Palmer

SOC Palmer Scholarship Parents

Chris Palmer's parents at Buckingham Palace in 1973 where Chris’s father received a high award from the Queen.

written by Chris Palmer and Gail Shearer
My parents had challenging childhoods, yet they transcended those deprivations and became very successful.
My father, whose father died when he was six, went from being an impoverished child of “working class” parents in Pembroke, Wales, to one of the most powerful men at the top of the British Admiralty. This was no easy accomplishment, especially in such a class-ridden society. He served as head of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors, which designs and builds all the warships and submarines for the Royal Navy.
When our three daughters were growing up, my father (their grandfather) told them inspiring stories of his remarkable service in WWII. He used his engineering skills to head a team that solved numerous ship and submarine-related challenges.
My mother was a young woman during WWII and put her brilliant skill at languages to support the war effort. She also served as a volunteer fire warden during bombing raids in Plymouth on the south coast.
She raised four small boys, including my twin brother and me, during post-war rationing in England without today’s modern conveniences. She became a central part of my father’s work community, welcoming with open arms a series of American naval families who were posted to Bath, England, where we lived. Though naturally shy, she learned how to overcome that and became a deeply loved hostess and friend to scores of visiting families.
My parents instilled in me the same values we hold dear at AU—integrity, service, courage, self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, generosity, hard work, creativity, and tenacity.