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Nyack resident Terry Plank has been awarded one of this year’s 23 MacArthur Foundation “genius grants,” and will receive $100,000 a year for the next five years—no strings attached.

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards five-year, unrestricted fellowships to individuals across all ages and fields who show exceptional merit and promise of continued creative work. It is limited to U.S. citizens and residents.

There are no restrictions on what the winners can do, no papers they need to write and no justification required for how they spend the money. Recipients usually don’t know they’re being considered until they get a call and learn they have been picked.

MacArthur President Robert Gallucci made this statement about all the recipients:

“These extraordinary individuals demonstrate the power of creativity. The MacArthur Fellowship is not only a recognition of their impressive past accomplishments but also, more importantly, an investment in their potential for the future. We believe in their creative instincts and hope the freedom the Fellowship provides will enable them to pursue unfettered their insights and ideas for the benefit of the world.”

Ms Plank is a professor at Columbia University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. She works as a researcher at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and teaches graduate students and an undergraduate course. She researches why and how volcanoes erupt. Ms Plank is now working on information she recently gathered in Hawaii.

Professor Plank said “It came out of the blue. I was walking to my car … to go get my son and the phone rings and it was the president of the MacArthur Foundation.” She added, “It’s definitely the best phone conversation ever.”

She said she never gave a thought to what she would do with an endowment and still has no idea.

Professor Plank has lived in Nyack for four years; her son just started at Nyack Middle School.