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Matthew Wickman Awarded Willard and Viola Gardner Prize

Wickman awarded for his efforts in exploring faith through literature.

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Photo by Photo by BYU Photo.

A staunch advocate and scholar for the humanities, Professor Matthew Wickman (Scottish Literature, Interdisciplinary Literary Studies) was selected as the 2023 Willard and Viola Gardner Prize winner. The Gardner Prize recognizes those who significantly contribute to the humanities.

The award honors Wickman’s “tireless national and international efforts to define, engage, and advocate for public humanities and for [his] pioneering work among Utah universities to re-imagine the humanities center as the living heart of academic humanities.”

Throughout his career, Wickman has extensively advocated for the humanities inside and outside of class. In recent years, he held positions like founding director of the BYU Humanities Center, associate editor for the Literature and Belief journal, and host of the Faith and Imagination podcast. Additionally, he facilitates a gospel perspective for general readership with his recently published book, Life to the Whole Being: The Spiritual Memoir of a Literature Professor, “which addresses ways that literature helps us express and navigate the complexities of spiritual life.” Wickman’s advocacy for religion and faith, particularly within the humanities, is unique and impactful in the field of academia.

“I’ve realized over the years that I do more good in advocating for the humanities if I treat them as a means rather than an end—that is, as a way for us to solve problems rather than as a problem needing to be solved,” Wickman says. For example, he enjoys speaking with religious devotees about the challenges and beauty they find within religion and how literature and art support and create solutions. He argues that taking this approach shows the true value of the humanities because it allows us to think more deeply, especially when discussing different topics. Active discussion and exploration through literature and the humanities facilitates a greater understanding across religious and cultural barriers.

Wickman expressed the honor he feels at being able to explore the humanities at BYU and cites the various opportunities the university has given him. “BYU’s emphasis on faith as well as intellect, and the university’s global consciousness and reach, make the humanities a multi-dimensional and cosmopolitan venture. And I cannot imagine working with better colleagues or brighter students.”

Wickman will accept his award at Waterford School in Sandy, Utah, on March 18 and give a brief address. He is the sixth recipient of this award from BYU and the second recipient from the College of Humanities. For more information on past winners and the prize, click here.