NEW YORK – Growing up in an interracial family is not always easy. Fordham’s Brian Purnell has made sense of his mixed parentage by studying the history of race in America. Now, with the help of the prestigious Andrew Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies, he will continue his research at New York University. “I think learning more about myself motivated me to want to learn the different ways that Americans have identified themselves racially and the role race played in developing this country,” Purnell said. “I can make sense out of who I am by going into the history books.” Purnell is one of 85 recipients nationwide of the Mellon Fellowship, which pays for the first year of doctoral study, in addition to a $14,750 stipend. He is among award winners from Harvard, Columbia and Princeton universities and is the first Fordham graduate to receive this award. Purnell will enroll in NYU’s history doctorate program this fall. NYU has awarded him the Henry M. MacCracken Fellowship and a dean’s fellowship, which will cover the tuition and fees for five years of doctoral work. Purnell will concentrate his studies on 20th century political movements, such as work done by the Congress of Racial Equality, that included people of all races as a means of improving relations. At Fordham, Purnell has a double major in history and African and African American studies. He maintains a 3.6 G.P.A., is a resident advisor, a student representative on the Faculty Task Force on Campus Culture and a member of Phi Alpha Theta honors society. “He has tremendous potential as a scholar,” said Mark Naison, an associate professor of African American Studies and director of the Urban Studies program. “He has a prodigious work ethic, an insatiable curiosity and cultural issues that he wants to explore.” “This is Brian’s honor,” he said. “This is Fordham’s honor.” The Mellon Fellowships help exceptionally promising students prepare for careers in teaching and scholarship in humanistic disciplines. NYU’s Henry M. MacCracken Fellowship is named in honor of the founder of the University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. In addition to covering tuition, the NYU fellowships provide a $17,000 a year stipend. “Usually schools will wait until after the first year (of doctoral study) and then they will decide to carry you. This is quite extraordinary,” said Pat Taylor, director of prestigious fellowships at Fordham. In the last five years, 60 Fordham undergraduates have received distinguished awards under the tutelage of Fordham faculty.