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.  

2016 Hobson Prize

Virginia-born Edward P. Jones is a fiction writer who grew up in the Washington, D.C., area, attending Washington public schools and then Holy Cross College in Worchester, Massachusetts, on scholarship. After his graduation in 1972, he returned to Washington where he worked with Science magazine.

In 1975 he sold his first short story to Essence. He continued to write and publish stories in magazines such as Callahoo, Ploughshares, and The New Yorker while holding various positions and earning his M.F.A. from the University of Virginia.

In 1992 he published Lost in the City, a collection of short stories set in Washington, D.C. Lost in the City won the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction and was short-listed for the National Book Award.

Jones was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2004 for his novel The Known World. One of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory, the novel tells the story of black slave owners and the effects of slavery. Jones shows how the institution of slavery affects every citizen in fictional Manchester County, Virginia, and how no character is free from its consequences.

In 2015, the BBC listed The Known World as one of the twelve great novels of the twenty-first century. The novel also earned the International Dublin Literary Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Lannan Literary Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.

The year 2004 brought the MacArthur Foundation to Jones’ door. The MacArthur Fellowship, which comes with a substantial five-year stipend, allowed Jones to complete his second set of short stories, All Aunt Hagar’s Children. Published in 2006, it is filled with characters who call Washington, D.C., home. This collection was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award.

Jones resides in Washington, D.C., where he teaches creative writing at George Mason University. He has also held adjunct teaching appointments at the University of Virginia, Princeton University, and the University of Maryland.

Previously honored recipients

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)