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MFAers Honored by Spalding University

By Karen Mann

Spalding MFA Administrative Director

At the Spalding University graduation on June 6, the Board of Trustees and the university community honored two MFA alumni, Silas House (F, ’03) and Frank X Walker (P, ’03) for their significant contributions in their fields of service.

Frank X Walker, former Kentucky poet laureate, received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. Frank is currently a professor in the department of English and African American and Africana Studies program at the University of Kentucky. He is the originator of the word Affrilachia, and he is dedicated to deconstructing and forcing a new definition of what it means to be Appalachian. He is the author of eight collections of poetry including, Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers, winner of the 2014 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Poetry.

Silas House, author and environmental advocate, was awarded Spalding’s highest honor, the Caritas Medal alumni award. The Caritas Medal is presented to an alumna or alumnus who, within her or his community or on a national or international level, has made a significant contribution to the field and who lives out the university’s mission. The term “Caritas” comes from “Caritas Christi Urget Nos” (The Charity of Christ Urges Us), the motto of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, the Catholic order that founded Spalding.

Silas is the nationally bestselling author of five novels, three plays and one work of creative nonfiction. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and a national leader in the movement to end the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. He currently serves as the NEH Chair of Appalachian Studies at Berea College. His many honors include the Intellectual Freedom Prize from the National Council of English Teachers and the Kentucky Novel of the Year.

In addition, civic leader and president of the Louisville Urban League Benjamin K. Richmond received the honorary degree Doctor of Public Service. President Tori Murden McClure says of the 2015 honorees, “These honorees are accomplished individuals who have dedicated their careers and personal endeavors to the advancement of the community. Their compassion, personal sacrifices, and achievements are models for our students. Spalding University is pleased to recognize them with honors as part of the 2015 commencement ceremony.”

The top photo, from Jason Howard, is of Frank X Walker, Kathleen Driskell (MFA Associate Program Director), and Silas House at the beginning of the graduation ceremony. The middle photo, from Frank X Walker, is of Silas and Frank after receiving their honors. The bottom photo is Tori at the Spalding graduation. MFAers can see that it’s not only the MFA graduation to which she brings props.

Please add comments about distinguished MFAers or memories of your graduation: Tori’s props or other things. As always, may you find success, peace, happiness, health, and joy beyond your wildest dreams.

(Karen Mann is the Administrative Director of the Spalding low-residency MFA in Writing program. She can be reached at


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