From 1990 to 2019, the Center of the American West presented the Wallace Stegner Award to an individual who has made a sustained contribution to the cultural identity of the West through literature, art, history, lore, or an understanding of the West. In the spirit of Wallace Stegner, the recipients demonstrated singular achievement, creativity, and dedication to the perception of the West and Western issues, and have communicated to others the importance and uniqueness of the West as a distinct region. In short, the award was presented to those who have faithfully and evocatively depicted the spirit of the American West.

A public event was held in Boulder, Colorado, to honor the recipient and present the award. The recipient was interviewed about her/his life achievements, particular interests in the West, accomplishments in bringing recognition to the West and Western issues, and their views about the West in general.

The Wallace Stegner Award was a beautifully framed, hand-made certificate. The award’s inscription was personalized to reflect the recipient’s distinguished accomplishments on behalf of the American West. The Wallace Stegner Award also came with a cash award.