Acclaimed Appalachian Author Gurney Norman is the speaker for Berea College’s 139th commencement, May 8.
Gurney Norman, Kentucky Poet Laureate in 2009-10 and director of the University of Kentucky’s creative writing program, will address 240 candidates for graduation during Berea College’s 139th commencement on Sunday, May 8, at 2 p.m. in the main arena in Seabury Center. A live video stream can be viewed at http://www.berea.edu/commencement/2011. Norman will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane, Episcopal Bishop of Washington, D.C., will speak at the Sunday morning baccalaureate service at 10:30 in Phelps Stokes Chapel.
The day’s other public events include the Nurses Pinning Service at 9 a.m. in Union Church, a luncheon for students and their families from 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. in the Alumni Building and a reception for graduates and guests on the Quadrangle immediately following commencement. In the event of rain, the reception will be held in the old Seabury Gymnasium in Seabury Center.
Born in Grundy, Virginia, and raised in southwestern Virginia and eastern Kentucky, Norman graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1959 with degrees in literature and creative writing. There, he became friends with fellow writers Wendell Berry, James Baker Hall, Ed McClanahan and Bobbie Ann Mason. After a year of graduate school, Norman received a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing at Stanford University where he studied with literary critic Malcolm Cowley.
Recognized as an authority on the literary and cultural history of the Appalachian region, Norman began his career in the U.S. Army before returning to his hometown of Hazard in 1963 to work as a newspaper reporter.
In 1965, he returned to California where he wrote his two published books “Divine Right’s Trip,” originally published in “The Last Whole Earth Catalog” and later as a book, and “Kinfolks,” which earned the Weatherford Award in 1977 from Berea College and the Appalachian Studies Association. Two years later, Norman joined the faculty at the University of Kentucky as an associate professor of English, a position he has held for more than 30 years.
In the late 1980s, Norman’s work moved from fiction to non-fiction and from print to television. Kentucky Educational Television premiered three one-hour documentary programs written and presented on-screen by Norman in collaboration with director John Morgan. “Time On The River” (1987) is a study of the history and landscape of the Kentucky River Valley. In “From This Valley,” (1989) Norman explores the history of the Big Sandy River Valley, with a focus on the valley’s rich literary tradition. “Wilderness Road” (1991) traces Daniel Boone’s route from the New River near Radford, Virginia, through Cumberland Gap to the banks of the Kentucky River in Madison County, Kentucky.
In addition to his work with television, Gurney Norman collaborated with independent filmmaker Andy Garrison, who directed three films based on Norman’s short stories. Norman’s short story “Fat Monroe” was made into a film starring Ned Beatty in 1990.
In 2002, the Eastern Kentucky Leadership Conference honored Norman for his outstanding contributions to advancing regional arts and culture. In 2007, the Appalachian Studies Association awarded Norman the Helen M. Lewis Community Service Award, recognizing significant contributions to Appalachia. Norman continues to serve as senior writer-in-residence at Hindman Settlement School’s annual Appalachian Writers Workshop.
Chane, who was consecrated the eighth Bishop of Washington on June 1, 2002, serves a diverse diocese of 91 congregations, nearly two dozen church-related schools and 45,000 members in the District of Columbia and Maryland. As president and CEO of the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation, Chane oversees the operations of Washington National Cathedral and the three cathedral schools: Saint Alban’s, National Cathedral School for Girls and Beauvoir School.
Named by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the 150 most influential leaders in the District of Columbia and recognized by the London Telegraph as one of the 50 most prominent leaders in the worldwide Anglican Communion, Chane continues to address local District of Columbia issues surrounding low-cost housing, advocacy for the homeless, the aged, those discriminated against because of sexual orientation and those who suffer from anti-immigration legislation.
He is the co-founder of the Episcopal Church’s “Bishops Working for a Just World” that seeks solutions to domestic and global poverty, universal health care and the environmental crisis. Chane continues to search for ways in which religion and international diplomacy can partner to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, especially focusing on the Middle East. In addition, Chane initiated companion partnerships with the Anglican Province of Southern Africa and the Diocese of Jerusalem with the Diocese of Washington. The work of the diocese targets health care and women’s issues in the Kingdom of Swaziland, HIV/AIDS care and prevention in South Africa and malaria prevention in Mozambique.
Chane has contributed to the Washington Post’s “On Faith” series and has appeared on ABC Television’s “Good Morning America,” National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” International Public Radio’s “Inter-faith Voices,” the BBC’s Radio and Television Network, CNN, Fox News, CBS and NBC television news. He has appeared on CSPAN focusing on Christian/Islamic relations and was featured in a three part PBS Television series entitled “Three Faiths, One God.” He is a featured writer in the recently published book “Iraq Uncensored.” He is a recipient of the “Inter-Faith Bridge Builders Award” presented by the Inter-Faith Council of Washington and was recognized by The George Washington University for his inter-faith work by being awarded the President’s Medal.
Prior to his election as Bishop, he served as dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, in San Diego, served parishes in New Jersey and Massachusetts and was Canon Pastor of Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Erie, Pennsylvania. From 2003-2005, he served in the dual role of Bishop of Washington and interim dean of Washington National Cathedral.
A graduate of Boston University and the Berkeley Center at Yale Divinity School, Chane has received honorary doctorates from Virginia Theological Seminary, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge.