History of the Thomas Wolfe Prize and Lecture
The Thomas Wolfe Prize and Lecture honor the memory of one of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s most famous alumni, Thomas Clayton Wolfe (Class of 1920). Established in 1999 with an endowed gift to the Department of English, the program recognizes contemporary writers with distinguished bodies of work. And in doing so, the program seeks to give University students and the surrounding community the opportunity to hear important writers of their time.
The Department of English bestows this prize each fall, around the time of Wolfe’s October 3 birthday. In addition to receiving prize money and a medal, the honored writer comes to campus as the University’s guest and delivers a lecture, which is free and open to the public. This event is a well-attended major campus and community occasion.
Thomas Wolfe is best known for his novel Look Homeward, Angel, which was published to rave reviews in 1929. Before his death in 1938, Wolfe also published Of Time and the River (1935). His novels The Web and the Rock (1939) and You Can’t Go Home Again (1940) were published posthumously. Wolfe’s writings reflect a largeness of spirit and an expansive vision of life, while anchored in geographic place.
Sponsors of the 2018 Thomas Wolfe Lecture are alumnus John Skipper (BA English 1978), The Thomas Wolfe Society, and the Department of English and Comparative Literature. The prize money comes from the Thomas Wolfe Endowment Fund. UNC Alumnus Ben Jones (class of 1950) gave the medals that each recipient receives.