Pulitzer-Winning Writer to Lecture at UM Upon Earning Distinguished Alumni Award

October 04, 2017

William FinneganMISSOULA – A University of Montana alumnus who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2016 will deliver a lecture when he returns to campus Homecoming Week to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award.

William Finnegan, who earned a master’s degree in creative writing from UM in 1978, will present a nonfiction craft lecture at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13, in Turner Hall’s Dell Brown Room.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be followed by a Q&A with Finnegan.

Finnegan has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1987. He’s spent the majority of his career writing in-depth features on conflicts at home and abroad, reporting on everything from apartheid in South Africa to the politics of immigration reform in the U.S.

Fellow alumnus and friend Bryan Di Salvatore said Finnegan’s time at UM has deeply influenced his work.

“I believe that, on a molecular level, every paragraph, sentence and word that Bill Finnegan writes, is born, in part, of his time in Missoula at the MFA program, living, as students do, poor and hungry and in love with the English language and bouncing around like a BB in a boxcar with the excitement of learning his craft,” Di Salvatore said.

In 2016, Finnegan’s surfing memoir, “Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life,” won a Pulitzer Prize. The New York Times best-seller chronicles his “youthful obsession” during his formative years as he traveled the world looking for the next big wave. He has earned numerous accolades for his reporting as well, and his research and reporting have resulted in several nonfiction publications, including “Cold New World: Growing Up in a Harder Country.”

For more information on the event, call UM Creative Writing Program Coordinator Karin Schalm at 406-243-5267 or email karin.schalm@mso.umt.edu.   

The public is also invited to attend a panel discussion featuring all five Distinguished Alumni Award recipients at 5:30 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom. The awards ceremony will follow. For more information on the Distinguished Alumni Awards, visit https://grizalum.org/.

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Contact: Karin Schalm, UM Creative Writing program coordinator, 406-243-5267, karin.schalm@mso.umt.edu.