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Contact: Christine Payton May 16, 2008
(337) 482-6397, payton@louisiana.edu
Author to receive award during Graduate School ceremony May 24 at 5:30 p.m.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette will award its writer-in-residence emeritus and internationally acclaimed author Ernest J. Gaines an honorary Doctorate of Letters during Spring 2008 Commencement ceremonies. The award will given during commencement for Graduate School in the Cajundome at 5:30 p.m.

“ We’ve been so honored to have such an high-caliber author at our university for so long,” said UL Lafayette President Ray Authement. “It seems only right to honor Ernest Gaines with this distinguished award.”

Most recently, UL Lafayette announced plans for the creation of the Ernest J. Gaines Center in Dupré Library on campus.

Gaines is one of the most significant American authors of the 20th century and is most widely known for his novels “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” “A Lesson Before Dying” and “A Gathering of Old Men.”

Gaines' work has been translated into at least 17 languages and has earned him a National Book Critics Circle Award, National Humanities Medal and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, popularly known as “the genius award.” “A Lesson Before Dying” was chosen by talk show host Oprah Winfrey as an Oprah Book Club selection in 1997.

The author's relationship with UL Lafayette began in 1981 when he accepted an invitation to serve as a visiting professor of creative writing. In 1984, Gaines officially became the university's writer-in-residence; he retired in 2004.

The Ernest J. Gaines Center will be built in a now-vacant section of the third floor of the library. UL Lafayette will provide $250,000 to establish the center. Future funding sources include donations, grants and royalties from a book about Gaines to be published by the university's Center for Louisiana Studies

The author has already donated some papers, manuscripts and memorabilia, such as handwritten drafts of some of his published work and the pens he used to write “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and “Of Love and Dust.” They are in the Jefferson Caffery Reading Room of Dupré Library's Special Collections Department.

The center will coordinate research related to the him and possibly other African-American writers in Louisiana. It also will pursue publishing ventures in cooperation with UL Lafayette's Center for Louisiana Studies.

Gaines' work has been the subject of 15 doctoral dissertations at various universities. More than 200 scholarly articles have been written and 12 books published about him.


About UL Lafayette
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is the second largest university in the state and is the largest of the eight institutions that comprise the University of Louisiana System. More than 16,000 students attend this public institution, which awards bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. Curriculums are diverse with offerings from the humanities to scientific research. It's a national leader in areas like computer science, biology and nursing. UL Lafayette is on the global technology stage with its one-of-a-kind Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise, which features several visualization environments and is supported by some of the most sophisticated supercomputers in the world. Its student-athletes - Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns - compete in NCAA Division I, the highest level of collegiate competition. The campus is located in the heart of Acadiana - a rich Cajun and Creole cultural area known for its extraordinary food, music, festivals and quality of life.

Document last revised Tuesday, May 20, 2008 1:42 PM

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