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English chair Lester receives alumni award from UWG

May 25, 2010

Arizona State University English scholar Neal Lester recently was honored by the University of West Georgia as an alumnus who “has gone on to professional distinction.” 

Lester graduated valedictorian and received a bachelor’s degree in English in 1981 from what was then West Georgia College. Now, an accomplished author and prominent scholar of African American literature and culture, Lester is chair of ASU’s Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, a post he has held since 2004. 

Lester is a sought-after public speaker and has published on African American hair, children's literature, drama, folklore, and cinema, as well as black-white interracial intimacies in American culture. He has doctoral and master’s degrees from Vanderbilt University. 

This spring, Lester traveled to the Carrollton campus of the University of Georgia to accept the David Bottoms Distinguished Alumni Award. The award is named for the former Georgia poet laureate and 1973 graduate of West Georgia College. 

Lester met with faculty from UWG’s Department of English and Philosophy who selected him for the 2010 alumni award. Lester also delivered a lecture in the Campus Center Ballroom titled “Nappy Edges and Goldy Locks: African Americans and the Politics of Hair” to nearly 300 faculty, students, staff and community members. 

“It was exciting to be acknowledged in such a way from the school that is the foundation of much of what I have accomplished,” Lester said. “That the school has watched closely my professional growth and personal evolution into a scholar, a teacher and a citizen was both gratifying and humbling.” 

UWG professor and English department chair Randy Hendricks, in his award presentation, commented on Lester’s many “noteworthy career achievements,” adding that Lester is also “a skilled administrator whose expertise is valued nationwide.” 

Before joining ASU’s faculty in 1997, Lester taught at the University of Alabama. Previously, he taught at the University of Montevallo in Alabama and Vanderbilt University. 

Lester is a Dean’s Distinguished Professor at ASU, an ASU Parents Association Professor of the Year, and a Foundation Professor. He is also an Arizona Humanities Council Distinguished Public Scholar, and in February 2010 was elected chair of the council’s board. 

Written by Kristen LaRue
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