The James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation was established by Congress in 1986 to improve teaching about the United States Constitution in secondary schools. The foundation is an independent agency of the executive branch of the federal government and receives its funding from U.S. Congress and contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations.
Named in honor of the fourth U.S. president and acknowledged "father of the Constitution and Bill of Rights," a James Madison Fellowship funds a large portion of each fellow's course of study towards a master's degree. That program must include a concentration of courses on the history and principles of the Constitution.
The 57 James Madison Fellows chosen in 2011 were selected from applicants representing each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and U.S. islands and trust territories. Recipients are required to teach American history or social studies in a secondary school for at least one year for each year of fellowship support.
Since 2007, the McCormick Foundation has funded a James Madison fellow from the state of Illinois. In addition to the James Madison Summer Institute at Georgetown University, the McCormick-sponsored fellow also completes a summer internship with the Civics Program.
The first award was given to Pat Usher, a social studies teacher at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park. Of the experience, Pat says, his "...James Madison Memorial Foundation Fellowship was one of reflection, understanding, and empowerment. In large part, (high school history and government teachers) feel forced to conquer coverage of the curriculum rather than explore the depth of the content,” he said. “The Fellowship experience empowered me to think beyond those pitfalls of education and rediscover the promise of experiment in the classroom."