Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Honors UM Alumni, Faculty



UM alumni and faculty receiving the 2022 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters awards are (top left to right) Scott Barretta, William Dunlap and Bill Ellison, and (bottom) Ralph Eubanks, Kenneth Holditch and Joshua Nguyen.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters honors many University of Mississippi alumni and faculty in its annual awards given to accomplished individuals in various creative fields.

Ole Miss alumni and faculty receiving 2022 MIAL awards include William Dunlap and Kenneth Holditch, recipients of the Noel Polk Lifetime Achievement Award; W. Ralph Eubanks, Nonfiction Award winner for “A Place Like Mississippi: A Journey Through a Real and Imagined Literary Landscape”; Scott Barretta, Citation of Merit for Hosting Mississippi Public Broadcasting“Highway 61”; Bill Ellison, Citation of Merit for hosting Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s “Grassroots” show; and Joshua Nguyen, poetry prize for his book “Come Clean”.

“It’s wonderful that so many creative thinkers in the liberal arts are being honored with the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters awards this year,” said UM Dean Lee M. Cohen. liberal arts college. “Their accomplishments help us better understand ourselves and the world around us. We are very proud of them.”

Recipients will be recognized on Saturday, June 11 at the 43rd Anniversary Awards Gala at Mississippi Art Museum in Jackson. The awards banquet is set for 6:30 p.m., preceded by a reception at 5:30 p.m.

“We are thrilled to celebrate our extraordinary talented Mississippians, artists, writers and musicians who are making our state a better place,” said Sarah Frances Hardy, chair of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters board of trustees.

William Dunlap

The winners were chosen by out-of-state judges who are eminent in their fields for works written, performed or presented in 2021.

Dubbed “The Art Ambassador” by the late Julia Reed, dunlap has distinguished himself as an artist, arts advocate and educator in a career that spans more than three decades. The Mathiston native earned his bachelor’s degree from Mississippi College and an MFA from UM.

Dunlap has taught at Appalachian State University in North Carolina and Memphis State University, and he has studios in Mathiston as well as McLean, Virginia, and Coral Gables, Florida.

His paintings, sculptures and constructions are part of prestigious collections such as Metropolitan Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Mississippi Museum of Art, Lauren Rogers Museum, Mobil Corp., Riggs Bank, IBM Corp., Federal Express, The Equitable Collection, Rogers Ogden Collection, Arkansas Art Center, the U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Embassies around the world.

Kenneth Holditch

Born in Ecru, Holditch grew up in Clarksdale, Vicksburg and Tupelo. After graduating from Tupelo High School, he attended Southwestern University, where he graduated in 1955 with honors in English. He attended UM’s graduate school, where he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in English.

He taught in the English department at the University of New Orleans from 1964 until his retirement in 1993.

Holditch is the author of a play, “Tennessee Williams and his Women”, which was chosen for dramatic readings at Lincoln Center in New York. He was one of the founders of the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in New Orleans and Clarksdale. He created and directed the Literary Walking Tour of the French Quarter from 1974. He is co-founder of the William Faulkner Society.

He is the author of several books, including “Tennessee Williams and the South”; “Galatoire’s: Biography of a Bistro”, with Marda Burton; and “The World of Tennessee Williams”, with Richard Freeman Leavitt. For several years Holditch published and edited the Tennessee Williams Literary Journal. He has written numerous essays on authors such as William Spratling, Lillian Hellman, John Kennedy Toole and John Dos Passos.

“There’s no stopping it,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and Jackson native Richard Ford. “He was a source of good works for a long, long time. A person of his talents and dedication to Mississippi doesn’t show up every day.

Scott Barrette

Originally from northern Virginia, Barrette hosted MPB’s one-hour blues show “Highway 61” for many years. Barretta first heard live blues at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as a young boy, inspiring him to explore rock artists’ Mississippi blues roots.

He graduated from George Mason University and the University of Virginia with degrees in political sociology. In 1992, he continued his doctoral studies at Lund University in Sweden and became an editor and writer for the Swedish blues magazine Jefferson, named after Blind Lemon Jefferson. He was editor and writer for living blues magazine and many other publications.

Barretta taught blues classes at Millsaps College and UM. He is a writer and researcher for the Mississippi Blues Trail and has written exhibits for the BB King Museum in Indianola and the Grammy Museum in Cleveland. In 2016, he received the Governor’s Arts Award from the Mississippi Arts Commission.

Ralph Eubanks

Author and journalist Eubanks was born in Collins, grew up in Mount Olive and lives in Washington, DC He received a bachelor’s degree from UM and a master’s degree from the University of Michigan.

A former editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review at the University of Virginia, Eubanks served as managing editor at the Library of Congress from 1995 to 2013.

He is the author of two other award-winning books: “Ever Is a Long Time: A Journey Into Mississippi’s Dark Past” and “The House at the End of the Road: The Story of Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South” . .”

Eubanks is the 2021-22 Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Scholar at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and Visiting Professor of English and Southern Studies at Ole Miss. An essayist whose work focuses on race, identity, and the American South, his writing has appeared in The Hedgehog Review, Vanity Fair, The Common, and The New Yorker, among others.

Joshua Nguyen

Nguyen, originally from Houston, Texas, is a Vietnamese American writer and PhD student in English at UM, where he also earned his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Critics of “Come Clean” describe his poetry as “sensually constructed” and “clean, song-like”.

“Come Clean” and Nguyen’s book, “American Lục Bát for My Mother”, won the prestigious 2021 Felix Pollak Prize for Poetry. In “Come Clean”, the speaker “clarifies” family, sexuality and its many inspiration.

National collegiate slam poetry champion, Nguyen has received scholarships from Kundiman, Tin House, Sundress Academy for the Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center. It has been published in Wildness, The Texas Review, Auburn Avenue and elsewhere.

He is co-editor of Wit Tea for The Offing Mag, co-chairman of Kundiman South, a bubble tea connoisseur, poker enthusiast and loves a good pun.

Ellison of Madison, has hosted MPB’s “Grassroots,” an award-winning two-hour program dedicated to the playback and promotion of bluegrass, folk, and acoustic music, since 1992. He has worked for radio and television stations in Jackson and Memphis as a reporter, morning radio personality, managing director, and account executive, and he served as interim executive director at the Mississippi Foundation for Public Broadcasting.

Bill Ellison

Ellison began his musical career playing trombone in the band at Bailey Junior High School in Jackson. He graduated from UM with a degree in communications and began his career working weekends as a broadcaster for former country music station WJXN.

A singer, guitarist and pianist who has been performing professionally for more than three decades, Ellison won the 2010 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

Other winners of the MIAL 2022 award are Becky Hagenston, recipient of a Fiction award for “The Age of Discovery and Other Stories”; Teresa Nicholas, Life Writing Award for “The Mama Chronicles: A Memoir”; Angie Thomas, Children’s Literature Award for “Concrete Rose; Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, contemporary music composition prize for “662”; Steve Rouse, Classical Composition Award for “Where Beauty Persists”; Ashleigh Burke Coleman, photography award for “Hold Nothing Back”; Patrick O’Connor, Lifetime Achievement Award for “Look Away, Look Away”; and Jennifer Torres, Visual Arts Award for “Garden Boats for Osage Park”.

The awards were first presented in 1980. Supported by the Mississippi Institutes of Higher Education and its members, MIAL is privately funded, self-sustaining, and not-for-profit.

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