PULLMAN, Wash. — Award-winning poet, author, screenwriter and film director Sherman Alexie will receive Washington State University’s highest honor for alumni during activities on Friday, Oct. 10.
The Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award presentation will be at 12:10 p.m. in Bryan Hall Auditorium on the Pullman campus. Following the award presentation, Alexie will read from his latest book, “Ten Little Indians.” The event is free and open to the public.
The program will be videostreamed live. Those wishing to see it on the Internet should go to www.cougnet.wsu.edu and click on the Sherman Alexie banner for instructions.
At 1 p.m., Alexie will have a book signing in the foyer of Bryan Hall.
Alexie becomes the 33rd recipient of WSU’s top award for its alumni. Previous winners include broadcaster Edward R. Murrow; Philip Abelson, “Father of the Atomic Submarine,” and his wife, Dr. Neva Martin Abelson, a physician who helped develop the Rh blood factor test; nationally-known sociologists William Julius Wilson and James E. Blackwell; psychologist Laurence J. Peter, author of “The Peter Principle”; astronaut John Fabian; and Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft.
Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit. He received a bachelor’s degree in American studies from WSU in 1994. Two of his poetry collections – “The Business of Fancydancing” and “I Would Steal Horses” — were published just one year after he graduated from WSU.
His other poetry books include “One Stick Song” (2000), “The Man Who Loves Salmon” (1998), “The Summer of Black Widows” (1996), “Water Flowing Home” (1995), “Old Shirts & New Skins” (1993) and “First Indian on the Moon” (1993).
He is also the author of several novels and collections of short fiction including “The Toughest Indian in the World” (2000); “Indian Killer” (1996); “Reservation Blues” (1994), which won the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award; and “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” (1993), which received a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and is now required reading on many college campuses.
In 1999, “The New Yorker” named Alexie one of the top writers for the new millennium, listing him among “20 Writers for the 21st Century” in its Summer Fiction edition. Alexie’s other honors include poetry fellowships from the Washington State Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award and Sundance Film Festival awards.
Alexie made his debut as a screenwriter with the script for the movie “Smoke Signals” based on a story from his book “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.” The movie was honored with two awards at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. “The Business of Fancy Dancing,” which is now available on DVD, marks Alexie’s directorial debut. “The Business of Fancy Dancing” won awards last year at several film festivals including; Victoria, San Francisco and Durango.
Established in 1962, the Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award is for alumni “who shall have made a truly distinguished contribution to society, or who, through personal achievement, shall have brought distinction to Washington State University.”
Alexie was nominated for the award by the WSU College of Liberal Arts. Nominators included professor and poet Alex Kuo, Alexie’s friend and mentor during his student years at WSU. In nominating Alexie, faculty members detailed not only his achievements, honors and awards, but also the importance of his Native American voice to a broad audience.