Western Carolina University is accepting nominations for the Mountain Heritage Award, an honor bestowed annually on one individual and one organization playing a prominent role in researching, preserving and/or interpreting Southern Appalachian history, culture and issues.

Nominations for the awards will be accepted through Thursday, June 30. The awards are presented at Mountain Heritage Day, the university’s celebration of traditional Appalachian culture that takes place on the last Saturday each September.

The university instituted the Mountain Heritage Award in 1976, and the first recipient was the late John Parris, a Jackson County native, career newspaperman and author. Parris, who died in May 1999, was widely regarded for his long-running “Roaming the Mountains” columns in the Asheville Citizen-Times. He helped establish WCU’s journalism studies program. He championed the establishment of a center to preserve the traditions and cultures of the WNC mountains, which led to the founding of the Mountain Heritage Center.

Many of the icons of Western North Carolina’s traditional culture have received the award over the years, including Cherokee potter Amanda Swimmer and Clay County community leader Rob Tiger, and organizations such as the Jackson County Genealogical Society and the John C. Campbell Folk School. The university has given two awards annually, one for a person and one for an organization, since 2007. One award was presented each year from 1976 to 2006.

“At a time when many of our regional and mountain traditions are disappearing, Western Carolina University is proud to continue the tradition of recognizing outstanding contributions to the preservation and awareness of mountain life and values,” said Carol Burton, former event chairperson and associate provost for undergraduate studies. “A committee composed of representatives from the community and university select the recipients.”

Last year’s award winners were R.O. Wilson, a quintessential mountain man who has demonstrated moonshining and making shake shingles and has led local cemetery documentation, and the popular bluegrass-gospel band Mountain Faith, nationally known for appearing on the NBC show “America’s Got Talent.”

Letters of nomination should not exceed five pages and should include the full name of the individual or organization being nominated, with a website address if applicable; the mailing address of the nominee; the founding date for organizational nominees; a list of the nominee’s accomplishments; a list of the awards and other recognitions received by the nominee; information about the nominee’s influence in the relevant field of expertise, such as crafts, music or organizational cause; and information about the nominee’s role as a teacher, advocate, leader or preserver of mountain culture.

Nomination letters may be hand-delivered to the Mountain Heritage Center at its new location in the Hunter Library building, Room 240; mailed to Mountain Heritage Center, 1 University Drive, Cullowhee NC 28723; or emailed to Pam Meister, interim director of the Mountain Heritage Center at pameister@wcu.edu.