Posted by William Nunnelley on 2000-05-16

Samford University will confer honorary doctorates on historian Wayne Flynt and author/conservation advocate Wendell Berry during Commencement Saturday, May 20. Commencement is at 10 a.m. in Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex Arena.

Dr. Flynt, Distinguished University Professor at Auburn University and author of 10 books, will receive the Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Flynt is a 1961 Samford graduate and former history professor at the school.

Berry, whose published work includes 28 volumes of fiction and non-fiction and another 15 volumes of poetry, will receive the Doctor of Literature degree. An interpreter of rural America in his writing, Berry resides on a farm near Port Royal, Ky.

Both honorees are recipients of numerous awards for their writing.

Flynt has written on Southern political history, poverty and religion. His books have received 13 awards. Two of his books, Poor But Proud: Alabama's Poor Whites (1989) and Alabama: The History of a Deep South State (1994), co-authored by Leah Atkins, William Rogers and David Ward, were nominated for Pulitzer Prizes. Poor But Proud won the 1990 Lillian Smith Award for Non-Fiction presented by the Southern Regional Council, the oldest regional book award in the South.

Flynt has been a member of the Auburn faculty since 1977, serving as head of the History Department during 1977-1985. He was Hollifield Professor of Southern History from 1982 until 1990, when he was named Distinguished University Professor, a position held by only seven of Auburn's 900 faculty.

Flynt earned his Ph.D. at Florida State University in 1965 and taught at Samford from 1965 until 1977.

Berry, called the "prophet of rural America" by The New York Times, wrote 10 novels set in the fictional town of Port William, Ky., which interpret rural culture. Many of his poems center on the meaning of the care of the earth, and much of his non-fiction work such as The Unsettling of America (1977) and The Gift of Good Land (1981) is a defense of a place for the independent small farmer in American life.

Berry has received 20 awards for his writing. They range from the Vachel Lindsay Award in Poetry Magazine in 1962 to the Thomas Merton Award from the Pittsburgh Merton Society in 1999, and include a 1971 writing award from the National Institute and Academy of Arts and Letters and the 1994 T.S. Eliot Award from the Ingersoll Foundation. Berry's Port William series novel, The Memory of Old Jack, won the Friends of American Writers first place award in 1975.

A University of Kentucky graduate, Berry has taught at Georgetown (Ky.) College,

Stanford University, New York University and the University of Kentucky, where he was full professor during 1964-1977 and 1987-1993. He has been visiting writer in residence at the University of Cincinnati, Centre College and Bucknell University.


Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.