UNCW Creative Writing Professor Philip Gerard Wins Highest Civilian Honor in North Carolina

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

UNCW creative writing professor Philip Gerard has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 North Carolina Award for Literature. The North Carolina Award is the highest civilian honor given to individuals in recognition of their significant contributions to the state and nation in the fields of fine art, literature, public service and science.

Gerard is among six distinguished North Carolinians who will receive the honor from Gov. Roy Cooper on Nov. 16 at the Raleigh Convention Center.

Gerard is the author of 13 books of fiction and nonfiction, most recently The Last Battleground: The Civil War Comes to North Carolina. His work, both fiction and nonfiction, shines a light on North Carolina’s history, environment and culture.

“We live in a state that has so many amazing writers who have contributed by being good literary citizens, I was surprised to be singled out for such an honor,” said Gerard. “Because the text of the announcement specifically mentions my novel Cape Fear Rising about the 1898 coup in Wilmington – relaunched this year in a 25th anniversary edition – the recognition is all the sweeter.”

“I am proud to live in a state that publicly honors writers and other artists – that makes for better citizens,” he added.

Gerard has also written 11 documentary television scripts, numerous radio essays, several magazine series and an award-winning radio drama. He played a significant role in developing the Creative Writing program at UNCW shortly after joining the university’s English department in 1989, and has seen the program grow to become a thriving department.

“There's a very special thrill and satisfaction in the act of putting words on paper that express something true and important,” said Gerard. “Once you begin doing it, it’s hard to stop. Writing uses all of you – everything you have learned, all your patience, your sense of humor, your beliefs, your imagination, your sense of composition, and ultimately your entire character. Thus it is deeply rewarding, and it never runs out.”

Once source of inspiration for Gerard is the thousands of students he has taught over the years. “First, they challenge me to live up to their own talent, to expand and deepen my reading, to earn my place at the head of the seminar table by the work I do every day at the writing table; second, because I must articulate why and how I do what I do, they force me to examine my own principles, my own aesthetic – and keep me honest to my craft,” he continued. “Teaching always has been and remains a privilege.”

Other 2019 North Carolina Award honorees are Rev. Dr. William Joseph Barber II of Goldsboro for Public Service; W. Earl Britt of Raleigh for Public Service; Deborah S. Proctor of Wake Forest for Public Service; Lawrence J. Wheeler of Chapel Hill for Fine Arts; and Catherine M. Wilfert, M.D. of Chapel Hill for Science.

-- Venita Jenkins