Paul Hendrickson wins Provost's Award for Outstanding Teaching

Dear CPCW colleagues:

I'm thrilled to announce that PAUL HENDRICKSON, a member of the Creative Writing faculty--who has taught advanced creative nonfiction workshops, his famed documentary writing workshop, and who in the fall will debut his new course, "The Hungry Eye: Telling Stories Out of Photographs"--has now been named the winner of the Provost's Award for Outstanding Teaching by a member of the affiliated faculty. This award is given each year to just one teacher at Penn. It is a great honor!

A celebration will be held at 4:30 in the Rare Book Room on the 6th floor of Van Pelt on Wed., April 20. I hope some of you will be able to attend, and I know you all join me in applauding Paul.


Paul Hendrickson's most recent book, "Sons of Mississippi," won the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award in general nonfiction. It also won the Heartland Prize presented annually by the Chicago Tribune, and in addition was named to many newspaper "Top 10" lists for books published in 2003. The book, which was published by A.A. Knopf and is now out in Vintage softcover, is a study of the legacy of racism in the families of seven Mississippi sheriffs of the 1960s. The research and writing, which took about five years, were supported by both a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts literature fellowship. Before Penn, Hendrickson worked for thirty years in daily journalism. He was a staff feature writer at the Washington Post from 1977 to 2001. Eventually, he came to understand the truth of the old saying that the legs are the first to go, and that the honorable and difficult business of writing perishable pieces on deadline belonged to younger people. He needed to try to find a place--a home--where he could continue to work on books and the occasional magazine article and to be involved with gifted, creative people. So now, luck beyond dream, fortune beyond hope, he finds himself conducting writing workshops full time at Penn in advanced nonfiction. The neophyte professor, hardly young anymore, was born in California but grew up in the Midwest and in a Catholic seminary in the Deep South, where he studied seven years for the missionary priesthood. This became the subject of his first book, published in 1983: "Seminary: A Search." His other books, in addition to "Sons" and "Seminary," are: "Looking for the Light: The Hidden Life and Art of Marion Post Wolcott" (a finalist for the 1992 National Book Critics Circle Award); and "The Living and the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War" (finalist for the National Book Award in 1996). They, too, were published by Knopf. As a daily journalist, most of it spent working and living in Washington, D.C., Hendrickson won a clutch of awards and traveled to many places and talked to every manner of human being and wrote too many stories that he'd just as soon forget about. Some pieces that he wrote, however, he remains uncommonly proud of; they mold now in an old wooden trunk on the top floor of his house. Hendrickson has degrees in American literature from St. Louis University and Penn State. He is married and lives with his family (world-class wife, two world-class sons)in Havertown, Pennsylvania. Oh, yes: He's deep into his next nonfiction book, but to utter here any more than its title could be wishing himself bad luck. That title? Okay. "Hemingway's Boat."