The University of Texas at Austin announces world’s largest student literary prize

Oct. 20, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas at Austin is the steward of the world’s largest literary prize for students, the $90,000 Keene Prize for Literature.

Beginning in May 2006, the university will award the Keene Prize annually to a University of Texas student who writes “the most vivid and vital portrayal of the American experience in microcosm.”

E. L. Keene, a 1942 graduate of the university who worked as a chemist for Revlon, set forth the parameters for the Keene Prize for Literature in his will. He envisioned an award that would “encourage the writing of good American literature” and “enhance and enrich the prestige and reputation in the world market of American writers both now and in the future.”

“The Keene Prize for Literature sets a new standard for recognizing excellence in student writing,” said Richard Lariviere, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “We’re deeply honored to be stewards of Mr. Keene’s vision for encouraging literary distinction among the students of The University of Texas.”

The winner of the prize each year shall be chosen by a committee of five. Under the terms of Keene’s will, the committee will include: the dean of Liberal Arts, the head of the English Department, the head of the Drama Department, the director of the University of Texas Press and a resident author to be appointed by the dean of Liberal Arts. The inaugural committee is composed of Lariviere; James Garrison, chair of the Department of English; Richard Isackes, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance; Joanna Hitchcock, director of the UT Press; and James Magnuson, a novelist who is also the director of the university’s James A. Michener Center for Writers.

Keene, who died in 1993, stipulated that the prize would be awarded annually to a sole undergraduate or graduate student of The University of Texas at Austin who was attending either full- or part-time. The trust he established recently matured, allowing the full prize to be awarded for the first time in May 2006.

The most generous student literary prize until now has been the Sophie Kerr Prize at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., which awards about $60,000 to one person each year. The University of Michigan’s Hopwood Awards total about $120,000 annually, with that sum divided among 30 or more winners. The world’s largest non-student literary award is the Dylan Thomas Literary Prize awarded in the United Kingdom and valued at about $110,000.

Submissions for the inaugural Keene Prize must be postmarked by Dec. 1, 2005. The address for submissions, as well as full entry rules for aspiring university student entrants, are available at the Keene Prize for Literature Web site.

For more information contact: Kathleen Aronson, 512-475-9763.