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Washington College

This article is about Washington College in Maryland. For other uses, see Washington College (disambiguation).
Washington College
Established 1723, Kent County Free School
1782, Washington College
Type Private
Endowment US $181.7 million[1]
President Jack S. Griswold
Administrative staff
Undergraduates 1,400
Postgraduates 100

Chestertown, Maryland, USA
39°13′05″N 76°04′10″W / 39.21806°N 76.06944°W / 39.21806; -76.06944Coordinates: 39°13′05″N 76°04′10″W / 39.21806°N 76.06944°W / 39.21806; -76.06944{{#coordinates:39|13|05|N|76|04|10|W|type:edu_region:US-MD |primary |name=

Campus Rural
Colors Maroon and Black
Nickname Template:If empty

Washington College is a private, independent liberal arts college located on a Script error: No such module "convert". campus in Chestertown, Maryland, on the Eastern Shore. Maryland granted Washington College its charter in 1782. George Washington supported the founding of the college by consenting to have the "College at Chester" named in his honor, through generous financial support, and through service on the college's Board of Visitors and Governors. Washington College is the 10th-oldest college in the United States and was the first college chartered after American independence. The school became coeducational in 1891.


File:Bronze GW Statue.jpg
A bronze George Washington statue overlooks the campus green.

Washington College evolved from the Kent County Free School, an institution of more than 60 years’ standing in “Chester Town,” which by the college’s founding date of 1782 had reached considerable strength and importance as a port city. George Washington consented to the fledgling college’s use of his name, pledged the sum of 50 guineas to its establishment, and extended his warm wishes for the “lasting and extensive usefulness” of the institution.[2] He would later serve on Washington College’s Board of Visitors and Governors—his only such involvement with an institution of higher learning during his lifetime.

The college’s first president, the Reverend William Smith, was a prominent figure in colonial affairs of letters and church, and he had a wide acquaintance among the great men of colonial days including Benjamin Franklin. Joining General Washington on the Board of Visitors and Governors of the new college were such distinguished figures as U.S. Senator John Henry, Congressman Joshua Seney and his Excellency William Paca, Governor of Maryland. The Maryland legislature granted its first college charter upon Washington College in May 1782.[3] The following spring, on May 14, 1783, the college held its first commencement.

With his election as first President of the United States, General Washington retired from the Board of Visitors and Governors and accepted the honorary degree of doctor of laws, which a delegation from Chestertown presented to him on June 24, 1789, in New York, then the seat of Congress. Since Washington’s last visit to campus, Washington College has hosted five U.S. presidents: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and George H. W. Bush.

The original college building cornerstone was laid in May 1783, it opened in 1788 after selling off acreage and starting a lottery to fund the project. The hall was still incomplete by 1794 and was destroyed by a basement fire January 11, 1827.[4] The oldest existing building — Middle Hall — was erected in 1844 on the site of the original college building. By 1860, Middle Hall was joined by East and West Halls. All three structures, known as the Hill Dorms, are on the Maryland Register of Historic Places.[5]


Student body and admissions

File:WC aerial.jpg
Washington College campus
File:ChestertownMD Rivershot.jpg
Chestertown's historic waterfront

For the 2011-2012 academic year, 56.6% of applicants were accepted to the college.[6] Approximately 1,400 undergraduates and 100 graduate students attend Washington College, 47 percent from Maryland and the balance from 35 other states and forty foreign nations. Approximately 8 percent of the American undergraduates are minority students and approximately 8 percent are international citizens. Approximately 5 percent of the college's student body is "non-traditional" (25 years old or older). Approximately 80 percent of all students live in college residence halls; the rest commute either from off-campus housing or from home.

Tuition for the 2012-2013 year is $39,208 and total expenses per annum (including room, board, and fees) are $48,768. Approximately 85 percent of the student body receives some form of need-based financial aid or merit-based scholarship award. The cost of attendance has been rising in recent years, with the overall costs (including room and board) increasing by roughly $2,000 per year.


Washington College has had a regional reputation for excellence for some time, especially in Maryland. However, under its last president, Mitchell Reiss, greater national recognition is the goal. The fruits of this effort are visible with Washington College's recent ranking among the top liberal arts institutions in the United States according to U.S. News rankings.[7] In the 2011 edition of U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges, Washington College rose 19 positions to 93rd in the nation in the National Liberal Arts Colleges category.[7]

Honorary societies

Literary prizes

Each year, Washington College awards the nation's largest undergraduate literary prize. Since 1968, the Sophie Kerr Prize has been presented to one graduating senior who demonstrates the greatest literary promise. The endowment created by Sophie Kerr, a writer who published 23 novels and dozens of short stories, has provided more than $1.4 million in prize money to young writers. At a ceremony held at the Poets House in New York City on May 17, 2011, Lisa Jones was selected as the winner of the $61,000 Sophie Kerr Prize.[8]

In 2005, Washington College inaugurated another literary prize, the George Washington Book Prize, administered by the college's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and awarded in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and George Washington's Mount Vernon. The prize is awarded annually to the most significant new book about the founding era. At $50,000, the prize is one of the most generous book awards in the United States. Richard Beeman won the 2010 George Washington Book Prize for his work, Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution. [9]

In 2015 the Rose O’Neill Literary House, Washington College’s center for literature and the literary arts, established the Douglass Wallop Fellowship as a nationwide competition, with the first fellowship going to playwright Sheri Wilner. The award will be granted biennially to a playwright.[10]

Student life

The school has over 90 student clubs. Freshmen, unless local, are required to live on-campus. On-campus housing is available for approximately 900 students. Most students (70-75 percent) stay on-campus over the weekend to participate in various social and recreational activities. Approximately 30 percent of students attend graduate school in the first year following graduation and approximately 45 percent do so within five years. Student/faculty ratio: 12/1. Average class size is 17. The school confers the degrees of Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Master of Arts (in English, psychology and history).

Sustainability initiatives are branded George Goes Green and include a green pledge, recycling, composting, an annual energy reduction competition, and use of biofuels.[11] Washington College has also joined American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment with a Campus Carbon Neutrality goal. The Center for Environment & Society oversees the Chesapeake Semester program, four interdisciplinary courses that use the College's location in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to explore environmental issues and advocacy.[12]

Washington College is host to the Harwood Series, which includes speeches by national politicians, and media pundits. In recent years, Haley Barbour, Howard Dean, John McCain, James Carville, Cokie Roberts, Chris Matthews, Ellen Sauerbrey, Donna Shalala, Eugene McCarthy, Cornel West, Birch Bayh, Gary Hart, Richard Lugar, John F. Kennedy Jr. and Karl Rove have appeared on campus. Entertainers such as the Counting Crows, Bruce Hornsby, Eddy Arnold, Wayne Brady, Jason Mraz, DJ Kool, Guster, Nick Swardson, Jamie Kennedy, Gym Class Heroes and Larry Hagman have all appeared on campus in one capacity or another. Because of its reputation as a liberal arts school with creative writing being a strength, writers such as John Barth, Ray Bradbury, Bobbie Ann Mason, Colum McCann, Neil Gaiman, Tim O'Brien, Junot Diaz, and Robert Pinsky have given readings at the campus.

Greek Life

Greek life at Washington College comprises four men's fraternities and three women's sororities, fraternities are mainly housed on the "quad", and sororities line the "Western Shore" housing.

Men's fraternities



George Washington Birthday Ball: A college-wide dance where students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the college come together to celebrate George Washington's birthday. The event usually takes place on, or around, the actual date of George Washington's birth. Formal dress is required for all in attendance.[13]

The All Campus Picnic: A carnival held for the students and community members before the beginning of the academic year.[14]

War on the Shore: The annual men's lacrosse game, held in late spring between Washington College and Salisbury University, two of Maryland's Eastern Shore's undergraduate schools. Beginning in 2004, the winner of the game has been awarded the Charles B. Clark Cup.[15]

May Day: Started in 1968 by Professor Bennett Lamond of the English Department, who retired in 2004. He brought a class out onto the green, where they read poetry and drank wine. Later that night some of the students returned, and Washington College's May Day celebration was born. Since then, May Day has become a two-day festival on April 30 and May 1, often involving public nudity by a percentage of the student body. The event draws many students as spectators.[16]

Notable alumni and affiliates

For a complete list, see List of Washington College alumni.

The college boasts of a notable list of persons who served on the original Board of visitors and governors, including:

Notable alumni

Honorary degree recipients


Varsity sports

The annual lacrosse rivalry between Washington College and Salisbury University is known as The War on the Shore.

Washington College has competed in intercollegiate athletics since the 19th century. Its oldest current varsity sports are the baseball team, which dates back to at least the early 1870s,[20] and the men's basketball team, which plays its 100th season in 2011-12.[21] Men's teams are known as the Shoremen; women's teams are known as the Shorewomen.

Fourteen of Washington College's 17 varsity teams compete in the Centennial Conference. The men's and women's rowing teams compete in the Mid-Atlantic Rowing Conference (MARC), while the sailing team competes in the Middle Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association (MAISA), a part of the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA).

The rowing and sailing teams host regattas on the Chester River and call the college's Truslow Boat House and Lelia Hynson Boating Park home.

The college's 17 varsity teams are:

  • Baseball (M)
  • Basketball (M, W)
  • Field Hockey (W)
  • Lacrosse (M, W)
  • Rowing (M, W)
  • Sailing (Co-ed)
  • Soccer (M, W)
  • Softball (W)
  • Swimming (M, W)
  • Tennis (M, W)
  • Volleyball (W)


The college is known athletically for its men's lacrosse team. It won the 1998 NCAA Division III National Championship and a share of the 1954 USILA Laurie Cox Division National Championship. The men's lacrosse team has participated in the NCAA Division II or III Tournament 28 times since 1974 and the NCAA Division III Championship game eight times.[22] Washington College Men's Lacrosse players have earned All-America honors 226 times.[23]

The men's lacrosse team, along with the women's lacrosse, men's and women's soccer, and field hockey teams, competes on Kibler Field at Roy Kirby, Jr. Stadium. Completed in 2006, the stadium was named one of the top 10 venues for collegiate lacrosse by Lacrosse Magazine.[24]


The college's men's tennis team emerged as a national power in the 1980s and won the 1994 and 1997 NCAA Division III National Championships. It has competed in 18 NCAA Division III Tournaments and won 20 conference championships since 1986.[25] From 1985 until 2005, the team won 122 consecutive conference dual matches.[26] Washington College men's tennis players have earned All-America honors 42 times,[27] while their female counterparts have earned All-America honors 11 times.[28] The women's tennis team competed in the 1992 NCAA Division III Tournament.[29] Both tennis teams play their home matches outdoors at the Ellen Bordley Schottland Tennis Center. During inclement weather, matches are played indoors at the Johnson Lifetime Fitness Center.


File:Washington College Men's Rowing.jpg
The men's eight of Washington College Crew leaves a Schuylkill River dock to race in the 2014 Navy Day Regatta.

Washington College Crew has seen significant improvement in both men's and women's programs in recent years. The Shorewomen are ranked nationally and finished sixth overall at the NCAA Division III Championships in Indianapolis in 2014.[30] John Leekley, a gold medalist in USRowing Master's National Championships, joined as head men's coach in 2007[31] and in 2014 the Washington College men's rowing team won its fourth championship in five years in the annual Mid-Atlantic Rowing Conference (MARC) Championships.[32] In 2014, nine Washington College rowers were named to the MARC All-Conference team. The teams frequently compete against larger colleges; in the 2014 Navy Day Regatta, for example, the Shoremen's two fours were the only two boats from non-Division I schools to finish in the top 17 spots in the race, taking 8th and 11th places.[33]


The sailing team competed in the ICSA Co-Ed National Semifinals in 2008, 2009, and 2010 and advanced to the ICSA Co-Ed National Championship Finals in 2009.[34]


The swim teams have enjoyed a history of success sending individual swimmers to the NCAA Division III Championships. Female swimmers have earned All-America honors 21 times,[35] while male swimmers have achieved that feat three times.[36] Home swim meets are held inside Casey Swim Center.


Eight baseball players who played at Washington College have gone on to play in the Major Leagues,[37] including two-time National League home run leader and four-time All-Star "Swish" Nicholson.[38] Athey Baseball Park, renovated in 2009, is the home of the baseball team.


The men's basketball team has made four appearances in the NCAA Division III Tournament, most recently in 1990, when it advanced to the national semifinals. It also posted a perfect 20-0 record during the 1924-25 season.[21] The men's and women's basketball teams and the women's volleyball team play their home games inside Cain Athletic Center.

Field Hockey

The field hockey team advanced to the NCAA Division III Tournament in 1996 and 1997,[39] while the men's soccer team played in the NCAA College Division Tournament in 1973.[40]

While men have been playing varsity sports at Washington College for well over a century, varsity opportunities for women have been a more recent development. The first varsity sports for women – rowing, tennis, and volleyball – were added in the mid-1970s and were followed by the additions of softball, lacrosse, field hockey, and swimming by the mid-1980s. Varsity women's basketball began play during the 1993-94 season, while co-ed sailing was elevated to varsity status four years later. The women's soccer team is the college's newest varsity sport; it began play during the fall of 1998.

Washington College fielded a varsity football team through 1950, a men's track and field team through 1982, and a men's cross country team through 1989. The college has also previously sponsored varsity men's golf and varsity wrestling during its history.

A number of famous athletes and coaches have spoken at Washington College, including Super Bowl-winning head coach Brian Billick, Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson, and former Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver.

Club, intramural, and recreational sports

Recent club sports offerings at Washington College have included:

  • Men & Women's Crew
  • Dance Club & Team
  • Equestrian Club & Team
  • Men's Lacrosse
  • Men's Rugby
  • Running Club
  • Skeet and Trap Club
  • Wakeboard and Waterski Club
  • Wilderness and Adventure Club
  • Women's Lacrosse
  • Women's Rugby

Club sports are student-run and funded by the Student Government Association.

Among Washington College's most successful club sports is its equestrian team. Founded in 2002, the team has been represented at collegiate national championships in both hunt seat and western riding competitions.[41]

The Men's Rugby Club has also enjoyed a recent surge of success and has gained national attention in both 15's and 7's play.

The athletic department also offers a variety of intramural sports, open to the student body, faculty, and staff. Recent intramural sports have included co-ed soccer, co-ed dodgeball, co-ed flag football, co-ed basketball, co-ed volleyball, co-ed kickball, and co-ed ultimate.

The Gibson Center for the Arts is centrally located on campus.

Recreation trips are sponsored by the athletic department and student affairs and have included white water rafting, skiing, rock-fishing, rock climbing, crabbing, camping, cycling, and water skiing and wakeboarding.


Despite the economic downturn, Washington College recently invested $70 million in its physical plant. In Fall 2009, the College opened two major new facilities: The Gibson Center for the Arts and the Hodson Hall Commons.

After undergoing a $24 million renovation and expansion of the original structure, the Gibson Center for the Arts now accommodates a recital hall, an art gallery, a mainstage theatre and a small experimental theatre in addition to classrooms, practice rooms and faculty offices.[42]

Hodson Hall Commons, another renovation/expansion project, reflects the historic features of adjoining Hodson Hall while accommodating the interests of today’s students. The Commons' first floor offers a central entertainment and performance space alongside café-style dining options and the Hodson Student Center. The main dining hall is located on the Common's second floor, providing scenic views of the surrounding campus.

Residence halls

Middle, East and West Halls
Location Washington Ave, Chestertown, Maryland

39°13′03″N 76°04′04″W / 39.2176°N 76.0678°W / 39.2176; -76.0678{{#coordinates:39.2176|-76.0678|region:US-MD_type:edu|||||| | |name=

Built 1844
Architect Reynolds, Elija
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference #


Added to NRHP September 06, 1979

Middle, East and West Halls stand on the crest of a low hill (the terrace) at the center of campus. Middle Hall (built 1844) and East and West Halls (built 1854) hold a special place in the history of Washington College in that they are the oldest surviving campus buildings. They serve as monuments to the original Common Building (completed in 1789), whose site they occupy. They are all three story buildings constructed of brick.[44]

They were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.[43]

They now function as follows:

  • East Hall—The International House is a three-floor coed building that serves as a home for students interested in international relation and foreign language study. This theme house has a faculty advisor.
  • Middle Hall—The Creative Arts House is a coed building for students interested in drama, music, visual art, literature, and the creative arts in general.
  • West Hall—The Science House is a three-floor coed building that serves as a home for students interested in the natural sciences. This theme house has a faculty advisor.

Other residence halls include:

  • Caroline House—This three-floor coed building houses men on the first and second floors, and women on the third floor.
  • Cecil House—This building is configured to accommodate four three-student suites and two six-student suites. Phi Delta Theta Fraternity resides here.
  • Chester Hall—This is a three-floor coed building housing students of all years. It contains both full suites (with common room) and partial suites (without common room). All suites have a double and two singles. There is a lounge and kitchenette on each floor with a full kitchen on the first floor.
  • Dorchester House—This building is configured to accommodate four three-man suites and two six-man suites. Kappa Sigma Fraternity resides here.
  • Harford House—This three-floor building is configured to accommodate four seven-person suites per floor.
  • Kent House—This is a two-floor building, co-ed by hallway.
  • Minta Martin—This single-sex building houses women only.
  • North Campus/Western Shore Residence Halls (Allegany, Anne Arundel, Calvert, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Garrett, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George's, St. Mary's)—These eleven buildings contain four apartment-style suites. Each suite contains four single bedrooms, two baths, a common area, and kitchenette. These halls are limited to upperclassmen. Two new apartment-style suite buildings, Sassafras and Chester, opened in the Fall semester of 2008.
  • Queen Anne House—This two-floor, co-ed building is home to the substance-free program. Alcohol and tobacco products are prohibited in this building.
  • Reid Hall—This three-floor building is for women only.
  • Sassafras Hall—This is a three-floor coed building housing students of all years. It contains both full suites (with common room) and partial suites (without common room). All suites have a double and two singles. There is a lounge and kitchenette on each floor with a full kitchen on the first floor. This building also houses a small exercise room open to all residential students.
  • Somerset House—This four-floor building houses only men.
  • Talbot House—This building is configured to accommodate four three-student suites and two six-student suites. Kappa Alpha Order resides here.
  • Wicomico House—This is a two-floor men's building. Men are housed on both floors.
  • Worcester House—This is a two-floor coed building, housing men on the first floor and women on the second floor.
  • Kent Crossing - In order to accommodate the increasing size of the student population, the department of Residence Life has leased out apartments at the nearby Kent Crossing apartment complex. This housing is available to juniors and seniors in good academic standing.

Academic buildings

  • Casey Academic Center
  • Daly Hall
  • Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts
  • The Constance Stuart Larrabee Arts Center
  • Louis Goldstein Hall
  • Clifton M. Miller Library
  • Rose O'Neill Literary House
  • Sears House
  • The John S. Toll Science Center
  • Dunning Hall and the Alonzo G. Decker Jr. Laboratory Center
  • Joseph H. McLain '37 Atrium
  • William Smith Hall

Athletic facilities

  • Athey Field
  • Benjamin Johnson Lifetime Fitness Center
  • Cain Athletic Center
  • The Eugene B. Casey Swim Center
  • Kibler Field at Roy Kirby Jr. Stadium
  • The Ellen Bordley Schottland Tennis Center
  • The Lelia Hynson Boating Park (off-campus on the Chester River)
  • Truslow Boat House (off-campus on the Chester River)
  • Athey Baseball Park
  • Shriver Field (named in memory of Eleanor Ringgold and Samuel Shriver, Sr., grandparents of Eleanor Shriver Magee '93 and Pam Shriver)[45]
File:WC Custom house.jpg
Washington College's 18th century Custom House

Administrative buildings


  • Brown Cottage
  • Hodson Hall (Dining Hall, Cafe, Quick Shop Eatery, Hynson Study Lounge)
  • Hynson Pavilion (off-campus near Chester River)
  • Hynson-Ringgold House (President's House)
  • Nussbaum House
  • White Cottage

Presidents of Washington College

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  • William Smith 1782–1789
  • Colin Ferguson 1793–1805
  • Hugh McGuire 1813–1815
  • Joab G. Cooper 1816–1817
  • Gerard E. Stack 1817–1818
  • Francis Waters 1818–1823
  • Timothy Clowes 1823–1829
  • Peter Clark 1829–1832
  • Richard W. Ringgold 1832–1854
  • Francis Waters 1854–1860
  • Andrew J. Sutton 1860–1867
  • Robert C. Berkeley 1867–1873
  • William J. Rivers 1873–1887
  • Thomas N. Williams 1887–1889
  • Charles W. Reid 1889–1903
  • James W. Cain 1903–1918
  • Clarence P. Gould 1919–1923
  • Paul E. Titsworth 1923–1933
  • Gilbert W. Mead 1933–1949
  • Daniel Z. Gibson 1950–1970
  • Charles J. Merdinger 1970–1973
  • Joseph H. McLain 1973–1981
  • Garry E. Clarke (acting), 1981–1982
  • Douglass Cater 1982–1990
  • Charles H. Trout 1990–1995
  • John S. Toll 1995–2004
  • Baird Tipson 2004–2010
  • Mitchell Reiss 2010–2014
  • Jack S. Griswold (interim) 2014–


  1. ^ As of February 14, 2014. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2013 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2012 to FY 2013" (PDF). 2013 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  2. ^ George Washington to William Smith, August 18, 1782. George Washington Papers, Library of Congress
  3. ^
  4. ^ Maryland History in Prints 1743-1900. 
  5. ^ "National Register Listings in Maryland". Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  6. ^ "Washington College, Applying". The College Board. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
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  8. ^ Childs Walker (2011-05-17). "". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  9. ^ "". 2010-05-24. Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  10. ^ Sheri Wilner awarded 2015 Douglass Wallop Fellowship Washington College, May 01, 2014
  11. ^ "Washington College | George Goes Green". Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  12. ^ "Washington College | Chesapeake Semester". Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  13. ^ "Washington College | News and Events". Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  14. ^ "Washington College | Student Life". Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  15. ^ "Washington College Men's Lacrosse". 
  16. ^ "Video Interview with Bennett Lamond". Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  17. ^ a b Washington College (20 February 2015). "Convocation to Honor Irish Peacemaker Bertie Ahern and Maryland Congressman John Delaney". Chestertown: Washington College. 
  18. ^ Washington College (20 May 2012). "Filmmaker Rosenthal Offers Advice on Ignoring the Skeptics As Graduates Celebrate Commencement". Chestertown: Washington College. 
  19. ^ Stowe's Clerical Directory, 1935.
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  30. ^ "#6 Shorewomen Finish Sixth Overall at NCAA Division III Championships". Washington College. 
  31. ^ "Profile of John Leekley". Washington College. 
  32. ^ "Shoremen Win Fourth MARC Championship in Five Years". 
  33. ^ "Fours Lead Way for Shoremen at Navy Day Regatta". Washington College. 
  34. ^ "". 2010-04-18. Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
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  43. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15. 
  44. ^ "Maryland Historical Trust". National Register of Historic Places: Middle, East and West Halls. Maryland Historical Trust. 2008-10-05. 
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External links