Honorary Degree Citation - Annie Proulx

by Terry Byrnes, June 1999

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Pulitzer Prize winning author and Sir George Williams graduate, Annie Proulx.

Ms. Proulx, the oldest of five girls, was born in 1935 in Norwich, Connecticut. Her father's work in the textile trade kept the family on the move throughout her early years. She attended Colby College in Maine in the 1950s and when she moved to Vermont in the early 1960s, she enrolled at the University of Vermont and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1969.

She came to Montreal to pursue post-graduate studies at Sir George Williams University, one of Concordia's founding institutions, and earned her Masters degree in history. When she returned to Vermont, she worked as a freelance journalist and wrote several "how-to" books, and raised three sons. Annie Proulx also managed to set aside some time for writing fiction, and produced short stories that were collected and published in her first book, Heart Songs and Other Stories.

Since the late 1980s, her writing has earned growing critical and public acclaim. Her 1992 novel, Postcards, won the PEN/Faulkner Awards for Fiction, while The Shipping News, published just a year later, received honours that include the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Another novel, Accordion Crimes followed in 1996, and this year, she published Close Range. This collection of short stories is about Wyoming, which is now her home.

When a reporter at Publisher's Weekly asked her why she settled in Wyoming she replied, "There is room to walk. There's something about being able to shoot your eyes very far ahead. In northern New England, the trees got in the way." Her stories also allow us to shoot our eyes very far ahead. These sweeping, dauntless, and sometimes rather dark narratives were, she says, bottled up inside her waiting to get out.

Annie Proulx has an enduring fascination with small and distinct communities. From the Newfoundlanders in The Shipping News, through nine different ethnic groups in Accordion Crimes, to contemporary American cowboys, she explores their language, their mores, and the financial and emotional commerce that nourish their lives.

Her short stories have been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's and GQ. They have also been selected for The O. Henry Stories anthology and The Best American Stories of the Century, and have won the National Magazine Award for fiction.

Her writing has received many other honours, including a Vermont Council on the Arts Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize , as well as the coveted PEN/Faulkner and Pulitzer Prizes. The University of Maine also awarded her an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 1994.

Concordia University is proud that Ms. Proulx has agreed to be part of our convocation ceremony today and to accept an honorary degree from her alma mater.

Mr. Chancellor, it is my privilege, and an honour, to present to you, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, Annie Proulx, so that you may confer upon her the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.