The Denny Prize for Distinction in Writing recognizes outstanding works of both creative and non-fiction from faculty and staff at St. Catherine University. Each year, the highly regarded and competitive award receives entries from across campus. This year's winners, Jill Jepson and Patricia Young, were named on Wednesday.
The Denny family — led by Trustee Emeritus and former Board Chair Charles Denny — established the prize to honor Eleanor McCahill: Chuck's mother and a 1926 graduate of St. Catherine. An English major who credited her St. Kate's professors for her abiding love for books and for excellent writing, Eleanor imparted those passions to her children and grandchildren.
The bond between the Denny family and St. Catherine reaches back to Chuck's grandmother, Mary Rahilly McCahill, a trusted advisor to Mother Antonia McHugh and a generous philanthropist. A founding member of the board of trustees, she was awarded an honorary degree from St. Catherine in 1922.
Denny and his daughter, Anne, attended the program and congratulated the winners, who each read from their winning works.
Alan Silva, assistant vice-president and dean of the School of Humanities, Arts & Sciences and College for Women, presented two awards and two honorable mentions to two faculty and two staff members.
The Denny Prize Award Winner for Creative Writing was Jill Jepson for her work, “The Drowning Time.” A professor in the English department, she received her doctorate in Anthropological Linguistics with distinction from The University of Chicago, an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, an M.A. in Asian Languages and Civilizations from the University of Arizona, and a B.A. in Psychology and Anthropology from San Jose State University. She edits two online literary journals and also has a blog. Jepson won her first Denny Prize for writing in 2006.
The Denny Prize Award Winner for Non-Fiction Writing was Patricia Young for her essay, “Empowered in Pink,” about her experience at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. in January 2017. Young is the Assistant Director of the O'Neill Center for Academic Development and also teaches core curriculum courses.She holds an M.Ed. from the College of St. Scholastica (Duluth) and an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Minnesota, Duluth. She taught English courses at the college level for many years at St. Scholastica.
"The O’Neill Center provides programs and services designed to promote academic achievement,” said Silva. “This includes services and support for helping students becomes better writers. So we know our students are in good hands if a staff member in our O’Neill Center is herself an award-winning writer.”
In addition, two honorable mention awards were presented.
Cyndy Krey, instructional design specialist in the University’s McGlynn Computer Center was presented an Honorable Mention for Creative Writing for her collection of poems, “The Ferret-Thief.”
“At St. Kate’s most of the time we encounter Cyndy when we need help with something that has gone wrong with D2L, the web-based platform for delivering instruction online,” said Silva. “It’s very fitting for a liberal arts institution to know that the person behind that calm, solution-driven rescue is at heart a poet.“
Professor Nancy Heitzeg was also presented with an Honorable Mention award for Non-Fiction Writing for her essay, “Education Not Incarceration” from her lifelong research on the school to prison pipeline and the prison industrial complex. She is also the author of the 2016 book, The School to Prison Pipeline: Education, Discipline & Racialized Double-Standards. She is chair of the University’s Sociology Department and co-director of the Critical Studies of Race/Ethnicity program.
Silva also acknowledged the invaluable help provided by Denny Prize Judges, Garvin Davenport, a retired provost and dean of liberal arts at Hamline University, and Ranae Hanson, a member of the English faculty at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College.