McGowan honored with Johnston Prize for Lifetime Achievement

mcgowanJohn McGowan, the John W. and Anna H. Hanes Professor of English and comparative literature, is the 2016 recipient of the George H. Johnson Prize for Distinguished Achievement by an Institute for the Arts and Humanities (IAH) Fellow.

IAH Director Mark Katz described McGowan as a renowned scholar of literary and political theory who played a vital role during his tenure at the second director of IAH from 2007 to 2014.

“In his eight years at the IAH, he worked tirelessly to promote the scholarship and welfare of Carolina’s faculty, whether through funding research and collaboration, creating programs to attend to the needs of professors at different stages of their careers, or simply engaging in enthusiastic intellectual conversation with whomever came through Hyde Hall,” Katz said. “With this award we recognize how deeply the IAH, the College of Arts and Sciences and the University are in his debt.”

In his 24 years at Carolina, McGowan has authored and edited dozens of works on philosophy, political theory and literary studies. He is a founding and active member of UNC’s Program in Cultural Studies, was the first director of the Graduate School’s Royster Society of Fellows, and in 2015, received the Graduate Mentoring Award.

The IAH began granting the lifetime achievement award in 2008 to honor George Johnson, one of the institute’s greatest ambassadors, and to recognize exemplary contributions by faculty in the arts, humanities or qualitative social sciences. The biennial award provides the recipient $7,500. An awards ceremony will be held Nov. 4.

McGowan said he was thrilled to win the award associated with Johnson and an organization that he was drawn to from the time it began. “I got involved in the IAH almost the day I arrived on campus,” McGowan said. “I got pulled into West House within two weeks. Ruel Tyson, the founder, had gathered this intellectual community and created the organization.”

Bland Simpson, Kenan Distinguished Professor of English and creative writing and interim chair of the English and comparative literature department, described McGowan as a “deep thinker” with “sharp, entertaining, genial wit.”

Simpson added, “No one else looks at, or thinks about, political and civic life quite the way he does. We’re very lucky John came our way.”

IAH Associate Director Jennifer Ho, a professor of English and comparative literature, said McGowan has been generous sharing both his time and knowledge to help graduate students and faculty across the colleague succeed in their careers.