Fred Chappell

Fred Chappell

On October 8, at 7 p.m. in UNCG’s School of Music Recital Hall, author and educator Fred Chappell received the 2010 John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities, North Carolina’s most prestigious public humanities honor. The Caldwell Award is given annually by the  North Carolina Humanities Council to exceptional individuals who throughout their lives and careers have strengthened the educational, cultural, and civic life of North Carolinians. The award is named for the late Dr. John Tyler Caldwell, former chancellor of North Carolina State University. The event, which includes a dessert reception, is free and open to the public. 

UNCG Chancellor Linda P. Brady brought greetings at the celebration. UNCG professor of rhetoric and composition and Humanities Council vice-chair Hephzibah Roskelly delivered the Caldwell Lecture in the Humanities, “Knowing Your Place.” The Touring Theatre of North Carolina performed Ole Fred Speaks of Family, an original dramatic work drawn from poetry and prose by Chappell and commissioned by the North Carolina Humanities Council for the occasion. Chappell’s sister, Becky Anderson of Asheville, presented the award.

Fred Chappell inspires eloquence among his friends and colleagues. UNCG professor of writing and NC author Michael Parker speaks of Chappell’s “fierce and idiosyncratic vision of time, place, and consciousness.” NC Writers’ Network executive director Ed Southern describes Chappell as “the Sherlock Holmes of writers: he notices things that others don’t, makes connections that others don’t.”  NC author and 2008 North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Lee Smith calls him “our resident genius, our shining light.”

Chappell, born in Canton, NC, earned graduate and undergraduate degrees at Duke University and for forty years taught at UNCG, where he helped establish the M.F.A. Writing Program, the third oldest in the U.S. and ranked as one of the top in the nation by Poets & Writers.

Parker writes, “What makes Fred such a stellar teacher is the fact that he’s such a stellar student. He is intellectually curious — voracious might be the better word — and though he is certainly erudite and deeply and widely read, his authority is of the quiet stripe, always accommodating and generous.”

Chappell has received the O. Max Gardner Award, the highest honor the University of North Carolina system can bestow on a faculty member, and in 1988 was appointed the Burlington Industries Professor of English. In 1999 UNCG established the Fred Chappell Creative Writing Fellowship.

Author of over two dozen books of poetry, fiction, and criticism, Chappell served as the Poet Laureate of North Carolina from 1997-2002 and was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 2006. Among Chappell’s awards are the Sir Walter Raleigh Prize, the Prix de Meilleur des Livres Étrangers (Best Foreign Book Prize) from the Academie Francaise, the North Carolina Award in Literature, and an Award in Literature from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. For his poetry he has received the Aiken Taylor Prize, Yale University’s Bollingen Prize, and the Roanoke-Chowan Poetry Prize eight times over. Chappell is also the recipient of the North Caroliniana Society Award, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the Ragan-Rubin Award, the Thomas Wolfe Prize, and the Zoe Kincaid Brockman Award. Recently, he was a visiting scholar in the North Carolina Humanities Council’s Teachers Institute, Appalachian Voices.

Chappell’s latest books are Shadow Box, a collection of poetry, and Ancestors and Others, a volume of new and previously published short stories. His work has been translated into many languages, including Finnish, Arabic, Hindi, Chinese, and Farsi. Chappell’s voice, his vision, and his exploration of place reach far beyond his native Appalachia.

Dr. Hephzibah Roskelly's Caldwell Lecture in the Humanities

Becky Anderson's Presentation of Caldwell Award