Hobson Lecture & Prize

Welcome to the Hobson Lecture and Prize

The Mary Frances Hobson Lecture and Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Arts and Letters is awarded annually by Chowan University to recognize the distinguished achievement of a person in the field of arts and letters.  Preference is given to Southern writers and poets or those authors whose work relates to the South.  The recipient, who receives a medallion and monetary gift, presents a lecture entitled “The Mary Frances Hobson Lecture,” which is open to all area residents, Chowan University students and personnel, and all enthusiasts of the arts and letters in the region.  

The Mary Frances Hobson Prize, which is endowed by the Hobson Family Foundation, was initiated in 1995 as a memorial to Mary Frances Hobson, a journalist and poet.  Mrs. Hobson was the first woman to receive the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in journalism from the University of North Carolina.  A native of North Carolina (1912-1993), Mrs. Hobson always treasured her relationship to Chowan University through her aunt, Lois Vann Wynn, who was a graduate of Chowan in the Class of 1905 and a member of the faculty from 1908-1915. 

The Hobson Prize has grown in stature to become a highly coveted honor.  Recipients include well-known and established authors as well as rising literary stars.  Chowan University is honored to be the home of the Hobson Prize where it holds a significant place in the academic program.  

2021 Hobson Prize

Chowan University is pleased to announce that Michel Stone is the recipient of the 2021 Mary Frances Hobson Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Arts and Letters. In making the announcement, the Hobson Prize Selection Committee noted that Stone’s novels “draw a beautiful and eloquent picture of a young Mexican couple who seek a new life, exposing readers to the long-lasting effects of shame and pride, inclusion and exile, and hope and hopelessness.”

Michel Stone, a native South Carolinian who now lives in Spartanburg, grew up on Johns Island where she first considered the life of migrant workers. The families who worked on nearby farms three seasons a year seemed exotic to her. As an adult, she became friends with a Mexican couple who had smuggled their baby into the United States. Considering what makes someone willing to risk not only his or her life but that of a child led to her first book, The Iguana Tree. 

Photo of Michel Stone by Paige Phillips

2020 Hobson Prize

Chowan University is pleased to announce that Crystal Wilkinson is the recipient of the 2020 Mary Frances Hobson Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Arts and Letters. In making the announcement, the Hobson Prize Selection Committee noted, “the language in Wilkinson’s The Birds of Opulence seems to have a life of its own, quiet, moving, and inspirational. Its vibrancy and warmth captivates and mesmerizes the reader, bringing to fore the great depth in the simplicity of the story and the beautiful and ever-present foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.”

Born in Ohio in 1962, Crystal Wilkinson was reared from infancy by her grandparents on their farm in the hills of rural Kentucky, a place which provided deep nourishment for her imagination and creativity.  She earned her B.A. in journalism from Eastern Kentucky University and went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Spaulding University. 

Photo of Crystal Wilkinson by Anastasi Pottinger of Rogue Studios

Previously Honored Recipients

Wiley Cash (2019)

Jim Grimsley (2018)

Kevin Wilson (2017)

Edward P. Jones (2016)

Dorothy Allison (2015)

Sharyn McCrumb (2014)

Joseph Bathanti (2013)

Silas House (2012)

Robert Morgan (2011)

Lee Smith (2010)

Darnell Arnoult (2009)

Judy Goldman (2008)

Josephine Humphreys (2007)

Michael Parker (2006)

Shelia P. Moses (2005)

Chuck Sullivan (2004)

Sheri Reynolds (2003)

Padgett Powell (2002)

Allan Gurganus (2001)

Amy Hempel (2000)

G.D. Gearino (1999)

Randall Kenan (1998)

Jill McCorkle (1997)

Mark Richard (1996)

Kaye Gibbons (1995)