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Student receives royal honor

February 20, 2001
The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip (from left), stands with Ken Washburn, an agribusiness senior, and researchers Mark Holle and Marcia Taylor after awarding Washburn the Duke of Edinburgh —

MSU student Ken Washburn has experienced the splendors of Buckingham Palace firsthand.

Last November Washburn and two of his research colleagues received the Duke of Edinburgh’s prize for the British Sub Aqua Club at Buckingham Palace in London. The award, for excellence in research, was presented by His Royal Highness Prince Phillip - the Duke of Edinburgh - himself.

“There is so much history in Buckingham Palace, it was almost overwhelming to be inside,” Washburn said. “Meeting and talking with Prince Phillip was incredible.

“There is so much history, tradition and pageantry surrounding the royal family it was hard to comprehend at the time.”

Washburn, an agribusiness senior, and his fellow researchers Mark Holley, a University of Michigan graduate with a doctorate from the University of Edinburgh, and Marcia Taylor, a native Scot pursuing her doctorate from the University of Glasgow, conducted the study during the summer of 1999, just north of Glasgow, Scotland.

“Receiving the award was a very special and unique experience,” Holley said. “It is the highest honor we could possibly receive doing research in Britain.

“It’s not every day you get invited to the palace.”

The group was the only nonmilitary entity to be considered for this honor for quite some time, Holley said. Washburn and Holley are the only Americans to receive the award, and Taylor is the only woman ever to have won it.

The group, led by Holley, surveyed about 28 man-made mounds, known as crannogs, during a two-week period, Washburn said.

Crannogs are found in lochs all over Scotland.

“The oldest crannogs date back to 4000 B.C., and were in and out of use until 1700 A.D.,” Washburn said. “These mounds were created by filling up narrow lochs of water with stones to form a type of artificial island which houses were built on.”

The research relates to a 1973 study by the British Navy in which researchers attempted to categorize the land formations by location, size and age, he said.

“We felt the British Navy’s results might be inaccurate because back then they used crude measuring and recording devices,” Washburn said. “We were basically checking their data with today’s measuring technology and we found that they were very inaccurate in the size and location of the crannogs.”

The trio then typed up its report and submitted it to the British Sub Aqua Club, along with about 1,600 others vying for the award.

They were chosen runner-up by the Sub Aqua club, and subsequently received their award at London’s most prestigious residence.

John Hudzik, dean of International Studies and Programs, said Washburn’s recognition is a reaffirmation of the quality of MSU students and programs.

“Anytime one of our students is recognized like this it is really a tremendous honor for our university,” he said. “An award like this reflects the quality of what our students, both undergraduate and graduate, do accomplish.”


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