8 October 2013
Dear Wolfe Friends,
I can hardly believe that Thomas Wolfe’s birthday month has arrived and the 2013 Thomas Wolfe Conference in beautiful Boise, Idaho is more than four months behind us. What a spectacular occasion that meeting was, thanks to Joe Flora, whose vision, planning, and tireless coordinating made it possible.
Thanks also to Denise Bittner and Tara Penry and her students who spent dozens of hours welcoming us to the West with tours, poster displays, and Tara’s fabulous keynote address. Thanks to Rick Ardinger and Shelley Crisp at the Idaho and North Carolina Humanities Councils for sponsoring Friday night’s lecture by Robert Morgan, the first Skyped event in Wolfe Conference history. Finally, thanks to all the presenters and to their attentive audience. The presentations were some of the finest I can recall.
The Boise conference concluded Anne Zahlan‘s eleven-year tenure as Editor of The Thomas Wolfe Review. During this time, she worked tirelessly to cultivate a new generation of Wolfe scholars and to bring the TWR into the digital age. For her tremendous service, Anne was recognized with the Wolfe Society’s Citation of Merit. Paula Eckard concluded her two-year term as our president. Paula’s exemplary energy, collegiality, and commitment led the Society to make significant achievements during these past two years. We are all very fortunate that Paula has agreed to assume the editorship at The Thomas Wolfe Review.
Other changes to the Society Board and its officers also occurred at Boise. Mark Canada, professor of English at UNC-Pembroke and an accomplished Wolfe scholar, was elected vice president. Bob Powell and Bill Beltz continue to serve as treasurer and secretary. New board members elected include Rebecca Godwin, Carl Thistle, Anne Zahlan, and Robert Brinkmeyer.
Prize winners during 2013 include Joseph Bentz, who received the Zelda & Paul Gitlin Literary Prize for the best scholarly article on Thomas Wolfe during 2012; Jedidiah Evans, an Australian scholar, who received the William B. Wisdom Grant; and Dylan Nealis, who received the first Thomas Wolfe Student Travel Grant in Honor of Richard S. Kennedy.
As you may recall, this past year the Kennedy Student Essay Prize was reconfigured with the aim of attracting more young scholars to participate in our conference. If you know promising graduate or undergraduate students who may have an interest in Wolfe (or in whom you might be able to instill such an interest), please direct them to our website, where they will find contest details.
I am pleased to share with you news of a substantial gift by Denise Bittner in honor of her late husband, Dr. John Robert Bittner, Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Many in the Wolfe Society fondly remember Dr. Bittner’s friendship and his contributions to Wolfe scholarship, including his Gitlin Prize-winning essay, “Thomas Wolfe and Jonathan Worth Daniels: The Carolina Roots of a Literary Rivalry,” published in the TWR, 27 (2003). Mrs. Bittner’s gift, in the form of an endowment, will fund the John Robert Bittner Student Literary Prize, in support of student travel to present their research at the annual Wolfe Conference.
Many of you may have attended the annual Thomas Wolfe Lecture on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a major event held annually since its inception in 2000. This year’s Thomas Wolfe Prize Recipient was Ron Rash, who delivered a lecture to a nearly capacity crowd (almost 400) in the Genome Science Center on October 2nd.
The Thomas Wolfe Society was instrumental in developing a secure endowment to fund the annual prize money. Presently, the Department of English and Comparative Literature at UNC-CH is seeking to build an endowment to fund the other expenses associated with the Lecture: travel, lodging, reception, advertising, etc. If anyone desires not to be solicited by mail on behalf of this effort, please inform me you wish to “opt out.”
If you are a TWS life member or a 2013 member of the Society, you will be receiving this year’s publications. The Proceedings of our 2013 Meeting in Boise, the special publication, and The Thomas Wolfe Review are all in various stages of production. So, if necessary, please update your membership.
On May 23-24, 2014, Wolfe Society members will converge on UNC-Chapel Hill‘s “magical campus” at the Carolina Inn for our 36th annual conference. Reservations must be made before April 30, 2014, in order to receive the special room rate of $164. Furthermore, a limited number of rooms at this conference rate are available, so please make your reservation as soon as possible. You may call the hotel at 1-800-962-8519 or visit the Carolina Inn’s website and enter 362947 in the “Group Code” field. You may also visit our Direct Billing Link.
This year’s conference theme is “Wolfe in His Time, Wolfe in Our Time.” Although proposals are welcome on any theme related to Thomas Wolfe and his work, we especially invite proposals for presentations that link Thomas Wolfe to the issues of his time (politics, race relations, etc.) and/or to these and other issues in our time (media, internationalism, etc.).
Please send your proposals by January 10, 2014, to Mark Canada at email@example.com or to Dr. Mark Canada, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, UNC-Pembroke, Pembroke, NC 28372-1510.
Mark has been hard at work planning the Chapel Hill conference. In addition to a full program of presentations and the annual banquet, several of this year’s special treats are a campus tour of Wolfe sites and a reading by acclaimed author Lee Smith from Guests on Earth. This brand new novel is set in the late 1930s in Asheville’s Highland Mental Hospital, where Zelda Fitzgerald spent the last years of her life. Make your plans now to attend this exciting conference on Wolfe’s “magical campus.”
Complete program details will be mailed in March 2014. In closing, I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve the Thomas Wolfe Society. Thank you for your unstinting support of the Society and for sharing your enthusiasm for the work of Thomas Wolfe. I look forward to seeing you in Chapel Hill!
George Hovis President
Thomas Wolfe Society
Contact Information: George Hovis Associate Professor, Dept. of English SUNY Oneonta, Oneonta, NY 13820