America magazine, Yale chapel create prize to honor young writers

by Soli Salgado

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Seeking to recognize bright young minds, America magazine has partnered with St. Thomas More Chapel at Yale University to create the George W. Hunt, SJ Prize for Excellence in Journalism, Arts and Letters. The prize comes with a $25,000 award as well as the opportunity to deliver a lecture at the Thomas E. Golden Jr. Center at Yale, and be published as the cover story in America within three months of receiving the prize.

Jesuit Fr. George Hunt, who died in 2011, was America's longest-tenured editor-in-chief. Hunt had a particular willingness to give young writers an opportunity to grow and learn, said Nick Sawicki, coordinator of the Hunt Prize selection committee. In that spirit, Fay Vincent Jr., a close friend of Hunt's and fellow Yale graduate, is honoring Hunt by funding this prize for young literary minds.

Eligible applicants should be 45 years or younger with great familiarity of the Roman Catholic tradition and an "appreciation for the intersection of faith and journalism and/or the literary arts," the guidelines say. In addition, a prizewinner should have a "sound moral character and reputation," with no previously published works that are "manifestly atheistic or morally offensive."

Works of a variety of genres will be considered, including fiction, poetry, drama, music, journalism, memoir, biography, history, art criticism and academic scholarship.

A five-person panel, consisting of editors and professors of a variety of subjects, will judge the submissions based on the literary qualities Hunt is known to have valued most: rigor, order and discipline of thought, as well as honesty, sympathy and optimism. The recipient's work must also display originality, intelligence, imagination, elegance and promise for further achievement.

Recommended topics to consider include Catholicism and civic life, modern American fiction, U.S. sports, jazz/classical music, and American film, among others -- areas Sawicki said are related to Hunt's interests.

"Catholics are not called to be interested in or to study strictly religious matters, but all things of society and the world," Sawicki said.

The prize is not restricted to Americans, but all works must be submitted in English. The Catholic mission and intellectualism are universal, therefore the prize intends to reflect that universality, Sawicki said.

Applications must be submitted by 11:50 p.m. EST on March 31. Nominations for the prize will open every year on Jan. 22, Hunt's birthday.

[Soli Salgado is an NCR Bertelsen editorial intern. Her email address is]

A version of this story appeared in the Feb 13-26, 2015 print issue under the headline: America, Yale chapel create prize to honor young writers.

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