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February 2011
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Power of the Pen

Annual writing prize honors Denny
family matriarch — and St. Kate's faculty.

Associate Professor of Theology William McDonough received the Eleanor McCahill Denny Prize for Distinction in Writing from trustee emeritus Chuck Denny and his daughter, Anne, on April 6.

For 16 years, the Denny family has celebrated excellence in writing through the endowed award. The award was named in honor of Eleanor McCahill Denny '26, who credited her professors at St. Catherine University with inspiring in her an abiding love of the written word.

"Our mother was a voracious reader of serious material, and she never deviated from holding herself to a rigorous standard," Chuck Denny says. "She inspired in all of us a long-term devotion to reading and, of course, to the beauty of the written word at the hands of skillful writers."

It was particularly meaningful for Denny to see McDonough win the prize, because the theology professor is a longtime family friend.

In his work, Sin and Addiction: Alcoholics Anonymous and the soul of Christian sin-talk, McDonough challenged his colleagues to reconsider the concept of sin as it relates to alcoholism.

McDonough said his work stemmed from a conviction that Christian churches have much to learn about how sin can be healed through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). He observed in AA participants a certain maturity and serenity in faith that seemed to be formed through something other than church membership.

"AA holds that sin and addiction are different but related realities, and they often operate together in one human life," McDonough explains. "My paper contends that AA has bridged what we could call the divide between the therapists and the theologians about talk of sin — giving us an approach to human failure that is both therapeutic and theological."

McDonough's work will be published in the fall 2011 issue of The Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics.

The Denny family also recognized Assistant Professor of English Susan Welch with an honorable mention for her historical essay on the University literary magazine.

Titled "Ariston: The Legacy of the Artists of St. Catherine's," the essay will be published as a separate segment of the 2011 edition of Ariston. — Melissa Kaelin

Eleanor McCahill Denny '26

Eleanor McCahill Denny '26 pictured as a recent graduate.

To learn more about the Denny Prize winners, visit news.stkate.edu.