CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Oregon State University has received a $600,000 gift from an alumnus to establish one of the top literary prizes in the nation and recognize the university's 12-year-old master of fine arts program in creative writing.
The Stone Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement will honor a major American author who has created a body of critically acclaimed literary work and, in the tradition of creative writing at OSU, been a mentor to succeeding generations of young writers.
Patrick F. Stone, a 1974 OSU graduate, and his wife, Vicki, established the prize to spotlight what they see as one of OSU's best kept secrets - the master of fine arts in creative writing. This program emphasizes mentoring students, building community and reaching out to underserved populations, including at-risk youth and military veterans.
The Stones' commitment will allow OSU to award the inaugural prize during the next academic year and also provide long-term funding through an endowment. The prize itself will be up to $20,000, making it one of the most substantial awards for literary achievement in the country.
"Vicki and I asked ourselves what we could do to draw attention to the College of Liberal Arts so it becomes a leading topic of conversation when you mention Oregon State," said Stone, who has supported OSU in a wide range of areas.
"Highlighting the creative writing program made good sense because it's such a gem," Stone said. "The enthusiasm and commitment of the faculty to their students is infectious, but the program is such a secret, we wanted to draw more national attention to it by way of this prize."
Recipients of the award will give readings, master classes and lectures in both Corvallis and Portland, highlighting the value of creative communication in contemporary American culture. In conjunction with the prize, an "Everybody Reads" program will feature a selected book by the writer, with events at libraries, book clubs and independent bookstores.
"Oregon State has a long legacy of creative writing excellence, starting in the 1950s when Pulitzer Prize-winner Bernard Malamud and William Appleman Williams both taught here, and William Kittredge was a student," said Larry Rodgers, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
Stone grew up in the Badlands of North Dakota, served two tours in the Vietnam War, then enrolled at OSU after hearing a lecture by renowned OSU history professor William Appleman Williams. He earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1974 and credits the College of Liberal Arts with giving him the "intellectual confidence" and "sense of perspective" that have served him professionally and personally.
Stone has had a successful 35-year career in the real estate industry. He is the retired CEO of Fidelity National Information Solutions and retired president and chief operating officer of Fidelity National Financial. Stone is currently president and CEO of Williston Financial Group based in Lake Oswego, Ore., and chairman of the board of The Stone Group, a commercial real estate brokerage, consulting and investment firm based in Austin, Texas. Stone, chair-elect of the OSU Foundation Board of Trustees, has served as a trustee since 2004 and also co-chairs The Campaign for OSU.
OSU's nationally-competitive master of fine arts program attracts more than 100 applicants annually for nine spots, and its faculty and alumni consistently win awards and publish widely.
"The national visibility of the Stone Award will make Oregon State a literary destination for talented young writers, and expose OSU students to the culture's best critics, authors and thinkers," said Marjorie Sandor, who directs the program. "We are grateful to Patrick and Vicki Stone for recognizing OSU's literary legacy and potential to be among the top creative writing programs in the country."
The inaugural recipient of the Stone Literary Award will be announced later this year, according to Sandor, with events scheduled for Corvallis on May 9, 2012, and for Portland on May 10, 2012.
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Marjorie Sandor, 541-766-8751