CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Author Richard Powers, a professor emeritus of English at the University of Illinois, has won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for his novel “The Overstory.” Columbia University announced the Pulitzer recipients today.
The book is described as “an ingeniously structured narrative that branches and canopies like the trees at the core of the story whose wonder and connectivity echo those of the humans living amongst them.”
Powers is the author of 12 novels. He has received a MacArthur Fellowship, and he received the National Book Award in 2006 for “The Echo Maker.” He previously has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a four-time National Book Award finalist, and he’s won numerous other literary prizes. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2010.
Powers enrolled at the U. of I. in 1975 to study physics but changed his major to English/rhetoric. He received a master’s degree in 1979.
He returned to the U. of I. in 1992 as a writer-in-residence and also held a faculty appointment in the cognitive neuroscience group of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. He was named the Swanlund Endowed Chair in English in 1986 and appointed to the U. of I.’s Center for Advanced Study in 1999.
In 2014, Powers was selected to a University of Illinois online Gallery of Excellence, part of the centennial celebration of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to honor “brilliant teachers and researchers who spent their careers on campus (as well as) alumni who left to make their mark elsewhere.”