March 2, 2006 — University of Virginia English professor Rita Dove has won the 2006 Common Wealth Award for Literature. She is one of five individuals honored with Common Wealth Awards of Distinguished Service, the PNC Bank of Delaware announced today (Mar. 2).
The international awards, presented annually for nearly 30 years, recognize some of the world’s greatest individuals, who have enriched and improved the world through their exceptional lifetime achievements.
This year’s honorees include former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn for government; Queen Noor of Jordan for public service; award-winning director Mike Nichols for dramatic arts; and Anderson Cooper, broadcast journalist and CNN news anchor, for mass communications. The group will share the spotlight at the Common Wealth Awards celebration on April 1 in Wilmington, Del. and will share a prize of $250,000.
Dove, the Commonwealth Professor of English, has published eight books of poetry, the most recent being “American Smooth,” which came out in late 2004. She received the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her book, “Thomas and Beulah,” making her the second African-American poet (after Gwendolyn Brooks in 1950) to receive the prestigious award.She also has written a novel, “Through the Ivory Gate,” and a book of short stories, “Fifth Sunday.” Her play, “The Darker Face of the Earth, ”had its world premiere in 1996 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and was staged at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and the Royal National Theatre in London, among other theatres.
Currently, Dove is serving her second year as Poet Laureate of Virginia; she was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 1993 to 1995. She has received numerous literary and academic honors, including the 2003 Emily Couric Leadership Award, the 2001 Duke Ellington Lifetime Achievement Award, the 1997 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, the 1996 Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities and the 1996 National Humanities Medal.
Dove was born in Akron, Ohio in 1952. She received her M.F.A. from the University of Iowa and her B.A. from Miami University of Ohio.She lives in Charlottesville with her husband, the writer Fred Viebahn. They have a grown daughter, Aviva Dove-Viebahn.
PNC Bank of Delaware has been trustee and administrator for the Common Wealth Awards since 1979, when the late Ralph Hayes, an influential business executive and philanthropist, established the Common Wealth Trust in his will. Hayes, who served on the board of directors of PNC Bank from 1943 to 1965, conceived the awards to reward and encourage the best of human performance worldwide.
Among the past winners are 11 Nobel laureates, including human rights leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former statesman Henry Kissinger and author Toni Morrison. Other winners include former Secretary of State Colin Powell; primatologist Jane Goodall; television journalist Walter Cronkite; and retired DuPont scientist, Stephanie Kwolek, the Delaware resident who helped invent Kevlar. With the 2006 presentation, the awards will have conferred more than $3.5 million in prize money to 157 honorees of international renown.