Senior Named Presidential Scholar in the Arts

On Thursday, May 21, 2020, the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars announced that Ryan McCord ’20 has been named a 2020 U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts. Nationwide, only 161 high school seniors are named Presidential Scholars and, of those, only 20 are recognized as Presidential Scholars in the Arts. Ryan is the second consecutive Marksmen to be named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, following Kyle Smith ’19. Both submitted artwork under the photography category.

“Ryan has an uncanny ability to connect with his photographic subjects, evoking an emotional intensity and curiosity that plays very well with his audience,” said Scott Hunt, Arnold E. Holtberg Master Teaching Chair and St. Mark’s photography instructor. “Whether documenting rural America, conservation efforts in Zimbabwe and Botswana, the rich culture of Morocco, or producing evocative environmental portraits of teenagers, Ryan uses the camera as a catalyst for discovery.”

Earlier this year, Ryan was named a finalist in the photography category of the annual YoungArts competition. The National YoungArts Foundation serves as the exclusive nominating agency for the Presidential Scholars in the Arts, the country's highest honor for artistically talented high school seniors. Each year, YoungArts nominates 60 students to be Presidential Scholar Finalists and the Commission selects the final 20 Scholars based on artistic achievement, personal characteristics and leadership, and service activities.

"These exemplary young people have excelled inside the classroom and out," said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, in announcing this year's 161 Presidential Scholars. "And, while they are facing unprecedented challenges as they graduate from high school into a world that looks much different than it did just a few months ago, their determination, resilience, and commitment to excellence will serve them well as they pursue their next steps."

Reflecting upon his artistic career at St. Mark's, Ryan offered his appreciation for the lessons imparted by photography instructor Scott Hunt: "Mr. Hunt has taught me how to push the boundaries in photography and make people’s stories come to life through the paper. This recognition also proved to me that I could really be an artist in the future as opposed to the arts being just a hobby."

Ryan is the fifth St. Mark’s senior to be named a Presidential Scholar in recent years, joining Galen Gao ’12 and fellow Presidential Scholars in the Arts Connor Watumull ’10, Austin Taylor ’10, and Kyle Smith ’19.

Mr. Hunt added, “To have two students selected to be a Presidential Scholar in the Arts in back-to-back years is unimaginable, but a testament to the talent, intellect, and ingenuity our boys apply across all disciplines.”

The United States Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964, by Executive Order of President Lyndon Johnson. It was amended in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter to include awards for “Special Capability in the Visual and Performing Arts and in Creative Writing.” Each year, only 161 high school students are named Presidential Scholars: 121 in academics, 20 in arts, 20 in career and technical education.
    • Self-portrait of Ryan McCord ’20

    • photo by Ryan McCord ’20

    • photo by Ryan McCord ’20

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St. Mark’s School of Texas is a private, nonsectarian college-preparatory boys’ day school for students in grades 1 through 12, located in Dallas, Texas. St. Mark’s aims to prepare young men to assume leadership and responsibility in a competitive and changing world.

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