In 2004, an anonymous donor established the Walker Percy Distinguished Professorship in Creative Writing to honor the late writer and alumnus Walker Percy ’37, who gave his papers to the Southern Historical Collection in the Manuscripts Department in Wilson Library upon his death in 1990. The Walker Percy Distinguished Professorship in Creative Writing was established to attract or retain a distinguished teacher, scholar and writer in the creative writing program in the department of English and comparative literature. Ideally, the professorship is held by an individual who is actively writing and publishing creative works.

Born in Birmingham, Ala., in 1916, Walker Percy wrote his first novel, The Moviegoer, in 1961, for which he won a National Book Award. Although he is most well-known for his writing, Percy decided to pursue a career in medicine when he left Alabama in the 1930s for UNC, where he majored in chemistry. Percy received his M.D. from the College of Physicians and Surgeons and Columbia University in 1941, but his medical career was cut short the following year when he contracted tuberculosis, forcing him to leave his internship for a sanatorium in upstate New York. The illness led Percy to give up on a career in medicine altogether to become a writer.

After his marriage to Mary Bernice Townsend and the birth of his two daughters, Percy settled with his family in Louisiana and began to write. He wrote six novels and many works of nonfiction in his prolific career. After his death in 1990, Percy’s family formally deeded his manuscript materials to Wilson Library, and in 1999 they transferred ownership of Percy’s large working library to the Rare Books Collection.

Walker Percy Fellow in Creative Writing

Gabrielle Calvocoressi