Ken Burns to lead program for students in October


The Virginia Historical Society (VHS) is currently accepting applications for the tenth Wyndham B. Blanton Scholars Forum, to be held Oct. 2324, 2008.  The forum is designed to bring together high school history students with some of the nation’s leading historians.  This year’s event will feature award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

“We are very excited to have Mr. Burns as part of our Blanton Scholar program because his educational and engaging films have inspired so many to explore our past,” said Canan Boomer, assistant director of education at the Virginia Historical Society.  “We hope that this experience will motivate students throughout their academic career to follow their dreams.”

Ken Burns has been making documentary films for more than twenty years and is the creator, director, and producer of numerous award-winning works, including “Jazz,” “The Civil War,” and “Baseball.” His films are among the most watched programs in Public Broadcasting Service history, each having attracted more than 45 million viewers. Burns’s work has earned him four Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, the Clarion Award, the Television Critics Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sports and Special Programming, the Producer of the Year Award from Producer’s Guild, a People’s Choice Award and a Peabody Award, among others.

Burns will be the J. Harvie Wilkinson, Jr., lecturer on Oct. 23. He will speak on his latest series, “The War: An Intimate History, 19411945.” The Blanton Scholars will be honored guests at the event and will have the opportunity to meet privately with Burns before his lecture. The following morning, students will participate in the Blanton Scholars Forum, a discussion-style seminar with Ron Heinemann, Squires Professor Emeritus of History at Hampden-Sydney College.  Previous lecture and forum participants include Michael Beschloss, Scott Berg, David Gergen, Ron Chernow, Edmund Morris, Cokie Roberts, Rick Atkinson and David McCullough.

Any student attending a Virginia high school who will be a junior or senior during the 20082009 school year and has completed a U.S. history or government class may apply to be a Blanton Scholar. Applications consist of a completed application form, a four-page research paper about WWII, a letter of recommendation, a teacher checklist and examples showing the applicants interest in history.  For eligibility information and complete application details, visit the Society’s website at The deadline for the application and all supplementary materials is July 1.

In addition to getting to meet Burns, Blanton Scholars will receive a copy of “The War: An Intimate History, 19411945,” written by Burns and Geoffrey C. Ward.  The program covers costs for meals and lodging for out-of-town students and their chaperones.  Twenty students chosen by the society’s Teacher Advisory Board will be notified of acceptance to the program in September.

“For the past ten years, we have been working with the best and brightest students in our state,” Boomer said.  “It has been a privilege to meet all these young people; some of them very well might be the next Ken Burns.”

The Wyndham B. Blanton Scholars Forum, named in honor of a former president of the Society, was established over a decade ago by a generous benefactor who wanted to create a statewide forum for high school juniors and seniors studying Virginia and American history.