A teacher returns to the classroom to pursue fellowship-supported studies


Three times proved the charm for Evan Daniel Clapsaddle ’02, winner of a 2009 James Madison Fellowship, an award he tried for twice before without success.

Evan Clapsaddle

Evan Clapsaddle ’02 (right) worked with Elizabeth McRae MA ’96,
associate professor of history and director of the social sciences
education program, on his winning application for a 2009 James
Madison Fellowship.

The James Madison Fellowship is a national award and supports graduate study for teachers of secondary school American history, American government and social studies. Clapsaddle graduated with bachelor’s degrees in history and social sciences education and now teaches 11th-grade U.S. history at Swain County High School. He plans to begin graduate studies in history at WCU in fall 2009. Clapsaddle is the first alumnus in the university’s history to win the fellowship and the first fellowship winner to apply it toward study at Western Carolina.

“I’m so proud to choose Western Carolina’s program over any others,” Clapsaddle said. “The professors at WCU have gone out of their way to make this happen, and they have really inspired me to do something with my degree. I don’t just teach history. I live it, and I love it.”

Clapsaddle’s was one of 55 fellowships awarded this year, each worth $24,000. He and his wife, Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, and their infant son live in Whittier. Clapsaddle has been at Swain High four years and also is an assistant football coach.

Elizabeth McRae MA ’96, WCU associate professor of history and director of the social sciences education program, worked closely with Clapsaddle during his undergraduate years and calls him “an exceptional teacher.” Along with providing him a letter of recommendation, she helped Clapsaddle fine-tune his winning application. “Evan could choose any university for this fellowship. It’s a credit to us that he has chosen to do it here, and it’s a credit to us that he is one of our undergraduates,” McRae said. “It also points to the strength of our regional public schools that one of their teachers is a James Madison Fellow.”

Swain High has an especially strong history program. Billie Clemens MAEd ’91 teaches 10th- and 11th-grade history at the school and also wrote Clapsaddle a recommendation. Clemens sits on the editorial board of the Magazine of History, a publication of the Organization of American Historians.

Brian Railsback, dean of the Honors College, is WCU’s James Madison Fellowship representative and selected Clapsaddle for nomination several years ago after conferring with other faculty members. “Evan’s name just kept coming up over and over again,” Railsback said.

Clapsaddle had determined to stop applying if he failed again to secure a fellowship. This year’s acceptance package sat unopened on Clapsaddle’s desk at Swain High for a week before he discovered it. “I was trying to clean off the clutter, and there it was,” he said.

Income from a U.S. Treasury trust fund, corporate contributions, private gifts and foundation grants fund the James Madison fellowships. A committee of professors and past fellows selects recipients, the number of which varies but roughly represents a winner from each of the 50 states.