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The Society of Foundation Professors at Eastern Kentucky University has awarded Dr. Erin Presley, associate professor of English, the 2019 Dr. John D. Rowlett Award.

The award, which honors the memory and generosity of a distinguished educator who served Eastern for more than four decades, is designed to encourage faculty scholarship, research or professional development. Rowlett is remembered as a champion of curiosity, creativity and enhanced quality of instruction.

Presley said she’ll use the $5,000 award for research on a book she’s writing.

“This award will help me finish my book on Horace Kephart, in which I explore the importance of Kephart’s work as a writer in the campaign to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as influencing important contemporary literary figures such as Annie Dillard, Robert Morgan and Ron Rash,” Presley said.

Due to limited knowledge of Kephart’s literary work and his work on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, research for the book has to be done from archives located in western North Carolina, which will require spending a considerable amount of time away from home. The award will allow Presley to work on site this summer.  

“Few people outside of those familiar with the park’s history are aware of Kephart’s efforts, and his work warrants more attention for his writing-as-literature, its role in the interdisciplinary field of Appalachian studies and its impact on the creation of the national park,” Presley said.  “Winning this award also validates the work I do with Appalachian studies, a field that has so many personal connections to my family, my identity and many of the students I work with at EKU.”

It was an honor Presley didn’t see coming. “I kept asking if it was real,” Presley said when she was told she had received the award. “That was a very good day.”

Presley has been an instructor at EKU since Fall 2011. She earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Georgia, a master’s degree in English and bachelor’s degrees in both English and French from East Tennessee State University, near her home region of northeast Tennessee. She said EKU reminds her of ETSU, and helps her feel at home.

 “I especially appreciate EKU's support of first-generation college students and its outreach to the service region,” Presley said.