2017 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award

Richard Ford © Karen Robinson


The Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award is an annual award given by the Tulsa Library Trust. Its purpose is to give formal recognition, on behalf of the Tulsa County community, to internationally acclaimed authors who have written a distinguished body of work and made a major contribution to the field of literature and letters.

The award consists of a $40,000 cash prize and an engraved crystal book.

Past award winners are Billy Collins (2016), Rick Atkinson (2015), Ann Patchett (2014), Kazuo Ishiguro (2013), Wendell Berry (2012), Alan Furst (2011), Ian McEwan (2010), Geraldine Brooks (2009), Michael Chabon (2008), Thomas Keneally (2007), Mark Helprin (2006), John Grisham (2005), Shelby Foote (2003), Joyce Carol Oates (2002), William Kennedy (2001), William Manchester (2000), Margaret Atwood (1999), E.L. Doctorow (1998), Dr. John Hope Franklin (1997), Neil Simon (1996), David McCullough (1995), Ray Bradbury (1994), Peter Matthiessen (1993), Norman Mailer (1992), Eudora Welty (1991), John le Carré (1990), Saul Bellow (1989), Toni Morrison (1988), John Updike (1987), Larry McMurtry (1986) and Norman Cousins (1985).


Dec. 1 and 2, 2017

Award Presentation at Black-tie Dinner
Friday, Dec. 1 • 6:30 p.m.
Central Library, Fifth Street and Denver Avenue

FREE Public Presentation
Saturday, Dec. 2 • 10:30 a.m.
Central Library, Fifth Street and Denver Avenue


Tulsa Library Trust and Tulsa City-County Library

Award Winner

Richard Ford, American novelist and short story writer, is the winner of the 2017 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award.

Ford is the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of the Frank Bascombe novels and the New York Times best-selling Canada (2012) and Let Me Be Frank With You (2014). He is the author of the renowned short story collections Rock Springs (1987) and A Multitude of Sins (2001).

Ford is best known for his Bascombe novels: The Sportswriter (1986), Independence Day (1995), The Lay of the Land (2006) and Let Me Be Frank With You. Over the years, he has garnered widespread critical acclaim for his portraits of middle-class American life. “I cannot think of another contemporary writer who has his finger so firmly on the jittery, apprehensive pulse of the American middle classes, and who so understands their search for grace in a society that has lost its way,” said Douglas Kennedy in a review of Independence Day.

During his 40-year prestigious writing career, Ford has won many awards and honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. In 1986, he won the PEN/Faulkner citation for fiction for his critically acclaimed novel The Sportswriter, and in 1995, Ford became the first author to win both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for a single novel (Independence Day). Also in 1995, Ford received the Rea Award for short fiction for his outstanding contributions to the form. In 2007, Ford published the third book in his Bascombe series, The Lay of the Land, which became a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and a New York Times Best Book of the Year. In 2012, Ford joined the faculty at Columbia University’s School of the Arts in New York as the Emmanuel Roman and Barrie Sardoff Roman professor of the humanities and professor of writing. He was awarded the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for fiction in 2013, and was the 2016 recipient of the Princess of Asturias Award for Literature in Spain.

Ford was born Feb. 16, 1944, in Jackson, Miss., and grew up across the street from the celebrated Southern writer Eudora Welty. While attending Michigan State University in the 1960s, Ford met Kristina Hensley while working in the cafeteria of her dormitory. The two were married in 1968 and now live in East Boothbay, Maine.

About the Tulsa Library Trust

The Tulsa Library Trust is a public charity created by private contributions to benefit Tulsa City-County Library. Income generated by the Trust's endowment is used to fund projects and purchase materials that the library could not afford through its operating budget.


Laura Stauffer is chairwoman of the 2017 Distinguished Author Award Dinner Committee, which is made up of more than 90 volunteers.

Bonnie Henke is president of the Tulsa Library Trust board.

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