Denny Prize awarded for non-fiction and creative works
When the winners of the Denny Prize for Distinction in Writing were honored in November, the St. Catherine University community had an opportunity to experience perspectives in both poetry and prose, largely relating to the experience of the self in modern society and the experience of The Other.
Members of the Denny family gathered with faculty and staff to present the award, in honor of Eleanor McCahill Denny ’26 who acquired her love of the written word from her professors at St. Kate’s.
"None of the prizes that we have is more important to us than the Denny Prize, which is awarded annually,” President Andrea Lee, IHM, said during the reception. “This year is the first year that we have actually made an award for both non-fiction and fiction writing.”
Trustee Emeritus Chuck Denny and his daughter, Anne, were both on hand to present the awards, which were announced earlier this year and include funding for each honoree to continue their work.
Denny Prize for non-fiction
Assistant Professor of Theology Min-Ah Cho received the Denny Prize for Distinction in Writing for non-fiction, for her work entitled "The Body, To Be Eaten, To Be Written: A Theological Reflection on the Act of Writing in Theresa Hak Kyum Cha's Dictee."
Cho garnered the award in her first year of teaching at St. Kate’s, and in that time, she had already received feedback from her students that they were moved by her autobiographical work.
“I’m just incredibly and extremely honored,” she said. “This essay is about my own journey and struggles in order to be a writer.”
While exploring her ideas through a theological lens, Cho’s work describes her experiences as a non-resident alien teaching and writing in the United States. She composed the piece in English, though her native language is Korean.
“Being a non-resident alien in the United States and speaking and writing in my second language, however, has showed me to a totally different experience of writing,” said Cho. “The more I have developed the ability to catch the nuances in English language, the more I have found a new and unprecedented conscience in my understanding of the sound and meaning of some Korean words.”
With the personal nature of her essay, Cho gave a moving presentation of the work during the reception for the Denny Prize. She read an excerpt from the work carefully and thoughtfully, expressing how strong her connection is to the art of writing and how the insight gained from this art informs her daily life.
“When I write, I feel more. When I write, I feel beautiful. When I write, I feel I am finally partaking in The Other. It is not because writing is something I can do well or because writing is easy for me. Writing is painfully difficult for me and it always makes me feel inadequate. Writing is, for me, an experience of both love and hate.”
Denny Prize for creative writing
Assistant Professor of English Lucas Pingel was awarded the Denny Prize in creative writing for his collection of poems entitled "Flurries."
“This is part of a project that is ongoing,” he said. “The poems are imagistic in nature, part lyric and part narrative.
"I’m very interested in the relationship between an individual and how he or she functions in a society around them, sometimes in a political way, sometimes in a spiritual way, sometimes in a mythological way. Much of my new work deals with a speaker who struggles to understand himself in his immediate surroundings, his country and the world at large.” (Right, Professor Lucas Pingel speaks with Professor Elizabeth Fontaine during the reception for the Denny Prize.)
Pingel shared several of his poems with the audience, marking the rhythm of each line with the movement of his shoulders and the precise signature of his voice. In this style, he shared "A Wish" and the title poem, "Flurries" at the reception.
“I’m very honored and humbled for the recognition,” he said.
Honorable mentions were also awarded in both the fiction and non-fiction categories:
- Non-fiction: Amy Hamlin, assistant professor of art history, for "Figuring Redemption: Max Beckman's Resurrections"
- Non-fiction: Kim Heikkila, adjunct instructor in history, for "From 'Nam back to Sanity': Nurses, PTSD and the VA"
- Fiction: Elizabeth Fontaine, assistant professor of English, for "Eagle Peak."