This year’s recipient of the Noel Polk Lifetime Achievement Award is Ann Abadie. Born in Greenville, South Carolina, she received her bachelor’s degree in English and history from Wake Forest University in North Carolina and her PhD in English from the University of Mississippi. She was on the planning committee that created the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and since its inception has served in crucial roles and in many capacities, including associate director. She is also associate editor of the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture and the Mississippi Encyclopedia, and coeditor of numerous scholarly collections from the annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference. For much of the Center’s history, she has served as lead grant writer and project manager. A founding director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, she is the 2019 recipient of their Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award. She is past president and a longtime board member of Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. She was instrumental in organizing the Elizabeth Spencer memorial celebration sponsored by MIAL on February 15, 2020, in Carrollton, Mississippi. Ann lives in Oxford with her husband, Dale Abadie. Devoted to the arts and the written word, she is most deserving of this award.
Sandra Shellnut, a member of the MIAL board of governors, said in nominating Abadie for this award, “Ann has had a fantastic career with the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, and that institution’s success is in large measure due to her efforts. Ann has incredible accomplishments, working mostly behind the scenes, but is most deserving of this award for her tireless work for so many organizations.”
During my long and happy life, enriched by the power of stories conveyed in visual, musical, and written form, I have greatly admired the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. MIAL began in 1978 when internationally celebrated scholar and gifted author Noel Polk proposed that twenty-four prominent leaders throughout the state join him in founding an organization to recognize individuals for their contributions to literature, music, and visual arts. Two years later, at its first annual meeting, MIAL presented three awards. Since then, the categories have grown from three to eight, with occasional awards given for special and lifetime achievements. MIAL has presented 254 awards to individuals and 10 for groups and special projects like Mississippi Public Broadcasting, the University Press of Mississippi, and the Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival. Being a member of this marvelous organization has brought me infinite pleasure, and I am deeply touched and greatly honored to receive MIAL’s 2020 award named in honor of Noel Polk, my longtime friend and one of Mississippi’s most significant leaders in arts and letters.