Kingsolver addresses Centre grads
RELEASED: May 25, 2005
DANVILLE, KYAddressing the Centre College Class of 2005, novelist and essayist Barbara Kingsolver told the graduating seniors their choices on what to produce and consume have become "moral choices."
Kingsolver, a native of Nicholas County in northeastern Kentucky, has family connections at Centre. Her niece Ashley Kingsolver was among the graduating seniors and her nephew Andrew is a member of the class of 2008. Ashley and Andrew's parents, Robert and Jackie Calvert Kingsolver, are also Centre graduates.
"You may have noticed that it's mandatory in the Kingsolver family to get a degree from Centre College," Kingsolver said. "I confess I've been recalcitrant -- I resisted for a couple of decades -- but finally I'm here."
Kingsolver told the seniors that they are coming of age in an era of scarcity and that their generation will be the first to make decisions involving the measurement of "what we could gobble up against what we really need."
In a talk entitled "Picking up the bread," Kingsolver, author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated The Poisonwood Bible, described the numerous ways in which we as Americans are "wrecking the planet as fast as we can" and consuming far more than our share of natural resources. She closed with a number of examples of ways in which creative social entrepreneurs were making decisions based on sustainable models, and stated that "The human profit motive ultimately is trumped by the ecological economy of planet earth. The highest law of the land, whether we accept it or not, is this one: the law of the land."
Two hundred and twenty-five seniors received degrees. Valedictorian prizes were presented to Jacob Sparks and Karen Wicke. Sparks, of Utica, Ky., received the George Winston Welsh Valedictorian Prize as the top male graduate and plans to study engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. Wicke, of Louisville, received the Gavin Easton Wiseman Valedictorian Prize as the top female graduate. She will study music at the University of North Carolina.
Kingsolver is the author of the novels Animal Dreams, The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven, The Poisonwood Bible, and Prodigal Summer; the collections Homeland and Other Stories (fiction) and The Other America: La Otra America (poetry); and the nonfiction books Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983, High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never, Last Stand: America's Virgin Lands, and Small Wonder.
Since her debut novel The Bean Trees appeared in 1988, her writing has won numerous awards, including the American Booksellers Association Book of the Year, the Arizona Library Association Book of the Year, the Edward Abbey Award for Ecofiction, the Los Angeles Times fiction prize, the Patterson Fiction Prize, and the Pen/USA West Fiction Award. The Poisonwood Bible appeared on the Best Books of 1998 lists of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award.
In 2000, President Clinton presented her with the National Humanities Medal, our nation's highest honor for service through the arts.
Kingsolver received an honorary degree as did William H. Hopper, Jr. '47, a retired Presbyterian Church author, administrator and missionary who spent a large part of his career in Iran and Pakistan.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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