Poet and novelist Ron Rash (above), the John and Dorothy Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University, is recipient of a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship for 2017. Announcement of Rash’s inclusion in the diverse group of 173 scholars, artists and scientists from the U.S. and Canada selected for the fellowships was made in April by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
The fellowships are awarded “on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise,” the foundation said in announcing the recipients. Honorees were chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the organization’s 93rd competition. Each of the 2017 recipients will receive a $50,000 award to support his or her work.
“It truly is an honor for me to be chosen for this award, especially because many writers whom I admire have received this award in the past,” said Rash, a resident of Cullowhee. “I am humbled to find myself mentioned alongside the likes of Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood and Raymond Carver.”
Rash came to WCU in 2003 to join the Department of English as the university’s first Parris Distinguished Professor. His latest novel, “The Risen,” hit bookstores last September. He is author of six other novels, including The New York Times bestseller “Serena,” and numerous collections of short stories and poetry.
Richard Starnes ’92 MA ’94, dean of WCU’s College of Arts and Sciences, said the fellowship provides another piece of evidence of the author’s stature on the national and international literary scene. “Ron Rash is the defining voice in Appalachian literature today, but he is so much more,” Starnes said. “In the tradition of Eudora Welty and William Faulkner, Ron uses his native region to ask profound questions about the complexities of the human heart, man’s relationship with nature, and sense of place. In this way, his work speaks to people everywhere with power and grace.”
The fellowship is the latest in an ever-expanding roster of honors for the native of Boiling Springs. A teacher of poetry, literature and creative writing at WCU, Rash has received the Sherwood Anderson Prize, the Novella Festival Novel Award and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and is twice winner of O. Henry awards. His 2015 “Above the Waterfall” was the Prince of Tides Literary Prize Winner in the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance’s 2016 Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize competition.