The George W. Hunt, S.J. Prize: For Excellence in Journalism, Arts & Letters

America magazine and The Saint Thomas More Chapel at Yale University, seeking to recognize the finest literary work of Roman Catholic intelligence and imagination, announce the creation of the George W. Hunt, S.J. Prize, a $25,000 award that will consider works in a variety of genres, including journalism, fiction, poetry, drama, music, memoir, biography, history, art criticism and academic scholarship.

Past winners include poet Philip J. Metres III and journalist Elizabeth Dias. 


The 2016 George W. Hunt, S.J. Prize for Excellence in Journalism, Arts & Letters, will open for submissions on January 22nd, 2016. 

I. THE LIFE OF GEORGE W. HUNT, S.J. (1937-2011)

George W. Hunt, S.J. served as the eleventh editor in chief of America, the national Catholic review published by the Jesuits of the United States. A native of Yonkers, New York, Father Hunt entered the Society of Jesus in 1954 and was ordained a priest in 1967. He earned a theology degree from Yale Divinity School in 1970, later remarking that his decision to study Kierkegaard with Yale Professor Paul Holmer was “the best and most fruitful decision in my entire academic life,” for it set the stage for a life-long study of the literary arts.

After completing a Ph.D. in literature at Syracuse University, Father Hunt joined the staff of America in 1981 as the review’s literary editor, a position, he said, that provided “the ideal situation to read more widely and deeply.” Father Hunt’s voracious appetite for the written word—he would often read three books in a single week—afforded him a deeply sophisticated knowledge of a broad range of literary and cultural topics. “Over the years,” longtime friend Fay Vincent wrote in 2011, “George demonstrated to me that he knew more than just about anyone alive about football and baseball, jazz, the movies, modern fiction—especially Cheever and Updike—the Civil War, political history, Winston Churchill, Irish history, Tammany Hall and Mayor Tweed, military history—especially World War II—and the list could go on and on.”

In 1983, Father Hunt took a leave of absence from America to become a visiting lecturer at Georgetown University. During his time at Georgetown, he came to appreciate “the work of America all the more, in that a writer had contact with 50,000 people per week, a number impossible to duplicate after a lifetime in the classroom.” Accordingly, Father Hunt soon returned to his duties as literary editor. In 1984, he was named editor in chief. Father Hunt’s editorial style was, in his own words, both “welcoming and honest; its sensibility sympathetic; its viewpoint optimistic.” Under Father Hunt’s leadership America prospered and soon regained its position as the leading Catholic journal of opinion in the United States. In 1987, Father Hunt was among sixteen Catholic journalists invited to attend Pope John Paul II’s September 1987 meeting with leaders of the entertainment and communication industry in Los Angeles. He was nominated for the St. Francis de Sales Award, the Catholic Press Association’s highest honor, in 1999.

In addition to his hundreds of columns and reviews in America, as well as dozens of lectures and scholarly articles, Father Hunt was the author of book-length works of biography and literary criticism, including: John Cheever: The Hobgoblin Company of Love and John Updike and the Three Great Secret Things: Sex, Religion, and Art. Jesuit author James Martin has remarked that Cheever, Updike and Hunt shared “something in common, in terms of their writing styles: clear sentences and a masterful command of English grammar and vocabulary. Graceful. Elegant. Measured.”

George Hunt, S.J. retired as editor in chief in 1998, at the conclusion of the magazine’s most successful year to-date. He remains the longest serving editor in chief in America’s history.  Later that year, Father Hunt was named director of the Archbishop Hughes Institute for Religion and Culture at Fordham University, where he dedicated himself to “exploring the relationships between religion and other aspects of contemporary life.” George W. Hunt, S.J., Jesuit priest, author and friend, died in 2011 at the age of 74.

In the final pages of his unpublished memoir, Father Hunt offered a modest account of his own faith: “During confessions,” he wrote, “I would recommend that the penitent read very slowly and prayerfully some verses from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Weeks later, on that penitent’s return, I would learn that the suggestion worked, in fact worked beyond mere reassurance, another instance of how the Word continues to enflesh itself: ‘For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, not any created thing, can come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus Our Lord.’” 


The George W. Hunt, S.J. Prize for Excellence in Journalism, Arts & Letters will be awarded annually by the trustees of America and The Saint Thomas More Chapel and Center at Yale University. This creative initiative is made possible through the vision and generosity of Fay Vincent, Jr. former commissioner of Major League Baseball, who sought to honor his long-standing friend, Father Hunt. The mission of the George W. Hunt, S.J. Prize is five-fold:

I.               To promote scholarship, the advancement of learning and the rigor of expression;

II.              To support and promote a new generation of journalists, authors and scholars;

III.             To memorialize the life and work of George W. Hunt, S.J.;

IV.            To forge a lasting partnership between America and the Saint Thomas More Chapel

                 and Center at Yale University, two places that were central to Father George Hunt’s

                 life and work;

V.             To support the intellectual formation of Catholic young adults. 


The George W. Hunt, S.J. Prize will be awarded to a single individual in recognition of his or her literary work. The recipient’s work should demonstrate those literary qualities that Father Hunt valued most: rigor, order and discipline of thought, as well as honesty, sympathy and optimism. The recipient’s creativity, style, prose, and analysis should also demonstrate originality, intelligence, imagination, elegance, and the promise of further achievement. The quality of the works is more important than the quantity of works published.

A. Topical Areas: Writers whose works involve one or more of the following topical areas, each of which was an interest of Father Hunt’s, may be considered. The selection committee will give greater weight, however, to works that a) represent an eclectic range of interests involving one or more of the topical areas; and/or b) examine the intersection of subjects within one or more of the topical areas; and/or c) involve the intersection of Catholic intelligence or Catholic imagination with one or more of the topical areas:

·      Catholicism and Civic Life

·      Catholicism and Arts and Letters

·      Modern American Fiction

·      U.S. Sports

·      U.S. History

·      Jazz or Classical Music

·      American Film and Drama

·      Poetry

·      Spirituality & Literature

B. The Body of Work: The selection committee will only consider English-language works of which the nominee is the sole or principal author. The selection committee may consider original works of journalism, fiction, poetry, drama or music; (auto)biography, history, literary criticism (either popular or scholarly); cultural criticism, arts/music criticism, scholarly treatises; opinion journalism, reportage, commentary, reviews, or columns. The selection committee will not consider self-published works in any media. Books that have been published only in digital format will not be considered. Other works that have appeared only online or in digital format may be considered if they were published by a reputable third-party and subjected to a professional editorial process independent of the author. 


Recipients of the George W. Hunt, S.J. Prize must dedicate a substantial portion of their professional energies to writing and must fulfill the following additional criteria: 

·      He or she must be 45 years of age or younger on the day the Prize is awarded.

·      He or she should be familiar with the Roman Catholic tradition and should have some

       appreciation for the intersection of faith and journalism and/or the literary arts.

·      He or she should be a person of sound moral character and reputation and must not have

       published works that are manifestly atheistic or morally offensive.

·      A person may be nominated more than once, provided they are otherwise eligible.

·      A previous recipient is ineligible.


Nominations will open on George W. Hunt’s birthday, January 22nd. Nominations will close on a date announced by the selection committee. A person may nominate him- or herself. Nominations will be submitted electronically at Complete nominations will be acknowledged by electronic receipt. A complete nomination includes:

·      The nomination questionnaire and information form, including the name and

       contact information for the nominee.

·      A government-issued document that demonstrates the age of the nominee. 

·      A biography of the nominee (no more than 1,500 words).

·      The nominee’s curriculum vitae, including places of employment and a list

       of all published works. Nominees who publish on a daily, weekly or monthly

       basis may provide a partial list of works from among that regular output.

·      One copy of the nominee’s best piece of published writing of fewer than 10,000 words.

·      A nomination statement (no more than 1,500 words), which addresses the nominee’s

       eligibility according to the established criteria. The nomination statement should

       be signed by three writers (in addition to the nominee if he or she is nominating him-

       or herself) who are familiar with the nominee’s body of work.


The George W. Hunt, S.J. Prize has three principal components:

1.     Monetary Reward: A gift of $25,000, paid to the individual recipient. 

2.     Ceremony: The recipient will formally receive the Prize at a ceremony and

        a dinner or reception given in his or her honor and hosted by the trustees of America

        and the Saint Thomas More Chapel and Center at Yale University.

3.     Lecture and Publication: The program for the ceremony and dinner or reception will include

        a lecture by the recipient, which will be open to the public. The recipient will choose a

        lecture topic that is directly related to his or her primary works. The lecture should

        espouse the virtues of journalism or the literary arts and should incorporate the

        recipient’s faith perspective. America will publish the lecture as a cover story within three

        months of its delivery.  


1. Rev. Matt Malone, S.J., Editor in Chief and President of America Media.

2. Dr. Angela Alaimo O'Donnell, Professor and Poet at Fordham University.

3. Mr. Kevin Spinale, S.J., Moderator of America's Catholic Book Club

4. Dr. Maura Ryan, Associate Professor of Theology at Notre Dame University

5. Dr. M. Cathleen Kaveny, Professor of Law and of Theology at Boston College.

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