A Rabbit Called Harvey
It’s been a good run for CU Boulder and the Pulitzer Prizes: In 2016 professor Carter Pann was a finalist in the music category, just a year after professor Elizabeth Fenn won in history.
As it happens, CU alumni, faculty and affiliates have been winning Pulitzers — among the most famous prizes in journalism, arts and letters — for at least 71 years.
Among alumni, the tradition appears to have started in 1945, when Denver native Mary Coyle Chase (A&S’26) won the drama prize for Harvey, her comic play about a genial alcoholic, Elwood P. Dowd, and his six-foot-plus rabbit.
Over the decades, at least 15 alumni, faculty and staff — and likely many more — have won or shared Pulitzers, some while at CU, some later in life. Still others were finalists.
Some individual winners work on campus today: Besides Fenn, for instance, there’s Dave Curtin (Jour’78), the chancellor’s speechwriter, who won the 1990 prize in feature writing while working as a reporter at the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph (now the Gazette).
Many other Buffs have shared group Pulitzers in journalism, the prize’s biggest category. They include university photographer Glenn Asakawa (Jour’86), for staff breaking-news photography with the Rocky Mountain News in 2000, and Doug Pardue (IntlAf’69) of the Charleston, S.C., Post and Courier, which won the 2015 public service prize for a series about the murderous abuse of women in South Carolina.
The selection of Harvey over Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie — now a major theater classic — has raised some critics’ eyebrows in retrospect. But Harvey was the prize jury’s clear favorite at the time, according to Heinz-Dietrich Fischer, author of Outstanding Broadway Dramas and Comedies.
The year 1945 was nearly an annus mirabilis for CU: Not only did Coyle Chase win in drama, but novelist and story writer Jean Stafford (A&S’36; MA’38) was a finalist, too, in fiction. Stafford would later win the 1970 fiction prize for her Collected Stories.
Photo by Henry Koster Film Company