October 30, 2014
Today, I am pleased to announce that three historic West Virginia institutions have come together to honor one of our state’s — and our country’s — greatest authors.
Pearl S. Buck, who was born in Hillsboro, West Virginia, in 1892, is one of only two American women to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. She also won the Pulitzer Prize and published more than 70 books. Her literary output spanned nearly every genre, including novels, short stories, plays, biography, children’s literature, essays, journalism, and poetry. She was an outspoken humanitarian, who promoted tolerance and understanding.
Pearl Buck left behind a rich legacy. West Virginia University is proud to join with West Virginia Wesleyan College and the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation to preserve and extend that legacy.
A priceless collection of her literary manuscripts will find a new home at West Virginia University.
For nearly 45 years, West Virginia Wesleyan has served as official custodian of this collection in partnership with the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation. Now, both of those institutions will work with our University to promote the collection, open it to the public for learning and research, and provide ambitious programming to stimulate Pearl S. Buck studies in West Virginia and beyond.
This partnership has two main goals — broadening academic programming around Mrs. Buck’s collected works; and growing, preserving, and sharing the collection with the world.
Other speakers today will give you more details about this partnership, but some of its benefits will be:
- Establishing an undergraduate studies program regarding her work for students across the state.
- Enabling creative writing graduate students from WVU and Wesleyan to learn more about Pearl Buck’s writings through access to the archives and the birthplace.
- Offering travel grants and other support for visiting researchers and scholars making use of the collection.
- Hosting a biennial “Living Gateway” Conference that will alternate between WVU and Wesleyan, to explore the way her life and writings can be used as “gateways” for cultural expression, intercultural understanding, and humanitarian aid.
- Creating the Pearl S. Buck Memorial Award, to honor a person who exemplifies her legacy.
- Publishing select materials from the collection through the West Virginia University Press.
- Giving graduate students from West Virginia University the opportunity to serve internships at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace.
- Launching archival innovations — including new finding aids, digital collections, and a comprehensive website — that will make the collection more accessible to scholars around the world.
Housed at our Libraries’ West Virginia & Regional History Center, the Pearl S. Buck Collection will be an outstanding addition to the world’s finest gathering of archives and manuscripts pertaining to our state and region’s history.
The Pearl S. Buck Collection’s presence in our state is fitting. Although she left West Virginia as an infant and spent her youth in China, Pearl Buck always had a special place in her heart for her birthplace.
As a child, she listened as her mother Caroline regaled her with stories about growing up in West Virginia—about, in Pearl Buck’s own words, “a place called Home where apples lay on clean grass under the trees, and berries grew on bushes ready to eat, and yards were un-walled and water clean enough to drink without boiling and filtering.”
To Pearl Buck, who learned to speak Chinese before she spoke English, these stories forged her image of America.
Buck acknowledged West Virginia’s importance to her when she decided that her manuscripts should reside in this state.
As one of two West Virginia Nobel laureates, Pearl Buck occupies a very special place in the history of the state and is a source of great pride for all West Virginians.
Above all things, she valued the drive to discover and create.
She once said that truly creative minds share “the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off. They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating.”
The work of Pearl S. Buck is an inspiration to creative minds everywhere.
She was a citizen of the world and a daughter of West Virginia. As West Virginia’s flagship, land-grant institution, we are proud to help her legacy inspire the world.