2010 Julia Harper Day Award Winner: Kevin Tolson


Kevin Tolson. Photograph by Harlan Campbell.

The Julia Harper Day Award was created in 1992 by the Center for Documentary Studies in memory of the young woman who was the Center’s first staff member and who, herself, was a photographer and writer of significant accomplishment. This award of $500 recognizes a graduating Duke senior who has demonstrated excellence in documentary studies and has contributed significantly to CDS programs.

This year’s 2010 Julia Harper Day award is senior Kevin Tolson of Baltimore, Maryland. A political science major, with a focus in American government and politics, Kevin is graduating with Distinction in Documentary Studies. For his final project in documentary studies Kevin created, The Sweet Science: The Story of NBS Boxing Gym, a film that highlights the story of a boxing gym in Raleigh, North Carolina, and its young fighters. He is among the first students at Duke to graduate with distinction in an arts-based program outside his major.

In addition to his involvement with the Center for Documentary Studies, Kevin is the Director of Finances for the Black Student Alliance and the Chaplain for the Kappa Omicron Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. After graduation, he will be working full-time as a sales analyst with Unilever in their Chicago office.

“I have worked on film and documentary work since high school and I plan to continue to do so as a hobby going forward,” he says.

Kevin’s active work as a documentary artist is only part of what recommended him highly for the award. He sought out CDS as a freshman and has been involved throughout his four years at Duke. He has made invaluable contributions to a number of CDS programs. Kevin was a significant member of the Face Up team, a lengthy community-based project involving the creation of fourteen permanent murals around Durham. He participated in residency workshops, shot and logged video, and helped with video editing. He also was instrumental in the creation of the Five Farms exhibition, part of a national radio project. He used technical skills learned at CDS to create an all-important multimedia component at the center of the exhibit. In addition, Kevin has been a significant ambassador to the undergraduate community at Duke, introducing CDS to many new students who now take Documentary Studies courses.

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