Clifton H. Harcum, a University of Maryland Eastern Shore employee and alumnus was recently named the 2013 winner of the Jefferson Award, an honor bestowed across the country on “ordinary people doing extraordinary things without expectation of recognition or reward.”
Harcum learned he won the honor during a motivational talk he recently gave to eighth-graders at Washington High School in Princess Anne where a television crew from Salisbury, Md.’s WBOC showed up.
what was happening. My first thought was they were there to do a story about the kids.”
The Salisbury TV station is a local partner with the American Institute for Public Service, which has been handing out awards named for President Thomas Jefferson since 1972. The late Jackie Kennedy was instrumental in forming the organization to recognize selfless people on the frontline of community service.
Beginning the week of Jan. 6, a segment capturing a surprised Harcum being told he is a Jefferson winner will air on WBOC news programs and will continue through Jan. 12.
Past Jefferson Award winners include Gen. Colin Powell, President Jimmy Carter, Arthur Ashe, Paul Newman and Walter Cronkite. Harcum is among 16 people in the WBOC viewing area chosen to receive the local honor and is a candidate to represent Delmarva when the national-level Jefferson Award is announced in 2013.
In November, Harcum and a residence life colleague, Phillip Thomas, spearheaded the collection of food that provided 900 needy families on the lower Eastern Shore with a Thanksgiving meal. It was the food drive’s fourth year.
He and Thomas also are the energy behind Generating Realistic Achievement of Success and Possibilities, more commonly known as G.R.A.S.P. They describe its mission as a community outreach and development organization that they work on in their spare time. G.R.A.S.P. organized college fairs promoting UMES this fall for parents and students at Somerset County’s two public high schools, and it also mobilized student-volunteers to participate in a town-gown community clean-up project in September.
“I feel it’s important to encourage development,” Harcum said statement. “No matter where you come from, you can always push yourself to the limit. (G.R.A.S.P.) is about challenging ourselves.”
While honored by the Jefferson recognition, Harcum also said “it’s a bittersweet thing for me.”
“Phil and I really work hard equally on our projects,” he said. “He deserves credit, too.”
In the past year, Harcum has written a motivational book – “Passion: Making the Impossible Possible,” and he and his wife have welcomed a son – Clifton Harvey Harcum Jr. The couple also has a daughter, Trinity.
Harcum is a 2005 UMES graduate with a degree in sociology. He was a member of the UMES track team, competing in shot put, javelin and discus. Karen Helmick Taylor, a former assistant track coach now living Florida with whom Harcum has remained in touch, nominated him for the award.
He works as a Resident Director responsible for Arden’s Run and Talon’s Square North, two privately developed apartment complexes where the university has arranged for student housing.
Harcum also helped found the UMES student group, Men of Distinction, and as a member of the Rotary Club of Salisbury is advisor to a new campus chapter of Rotaract, a service club geared to young adults..
“I’m not anybody special,” Harcum said. “I like to tell people you can achieve anything in life. Just be yourself and develop yourself into being the best you can be.”