Yale will officially announce a new series of literature awards to be administered by the University Monday.
The Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes will be funded by the estate of American writer and memoirist Donald Windham, who died in May of 2010 at the age of 89. Seven to nine grants will be awarded each year starting in late 2012 or early 2013, and each grant will be worth $150,000, making the prizes some of the largest in English literature.
The program will award seven to nine $150,000 prizes annually to recognize both established and promising writers in fiction, non-fiction, and drama. Poetry may be added as a fourth category at a later time. Windham did not attend college, and therefore his will stated a particular interest in ensuring that writers who are not connected to an academic institution are included for consideration.
According to his will, Windham also wished to ensure that the prizes would be substantial enough to enable each recipient to spend a full year writing, unencumbered by financial concerns.
“I don’t know for sure if these are the biggest prizes in America, but Donald would be happy to think that they were,” Eugene Kokot, co-executor of Windham’s will, told the New York Times.
By comparison, prominent American awards such as the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award are worth $10,000 each.
In 1989, Windham donated a large portion of his writings and correspondences to the Yale Collection of American Literature at the Beinecke Library. The remainder of his literary estate also will be donated to the Beinecke Library, pursuant to his will.
“Donald’s decision to establish the prizes at Yale and to donate the remainder of his estate to the University was in large part due to his trust in and warm relationship with the institution that had been such good stewards of his literary collection for so many years,” Kokot said in a press release issued by the Office of Public Affairs and Communications.
Yale’s Windham – Campbell Collection currently includes Windham’s private correspondences with literary figures such as Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote as well as some of Windham’s original literary work. The bequest adds additional writings, correspondence with other famous figures, photographs, and artwork.
In addition to donating a significant collection of his literary papers, Windham’s early gifts to Yale established an endowment for curatorial support of the collection. His bequest included an additional contribution to this endowment.
“It is our hope and expectation that the prizes, together with the collection of the author’s papers that are already a treasured part of Yale’s Beinecke Library holdings, will draw deserved attention to Donald Windham’s literary accomplishments and preserve them for years to come,” University President Richard Levin in the release.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1920, Windham moved to New York City and lived there for most of his adult life. Windham wrote several novels and plays, but he is best known for his memoirs, which chronicled his relationships with New York City’s literary elite.
The Windham – Campbell Prizes and Collection honor both Windham and his longtime partner, Sandy M. Campbell, a Princeton undergraduate who published the first editions of many of Windham’s books. The two were a couple from 1943 until Campbell’s death in 1988.