The Jesse Stuart Foundation's Senior Editor and CEO was in attendance at the 56th Honors Day Convocation at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky last Sunday. At the ceremony, Dr. Gifford received an honorary degree and was recognized as a Doctor of Humane Letters.
Dr. Gifford has headed the Jesse Stuart Foundation since 1979, when the organization was established to manage Jesse Stuart's literary estate and promote educational and cultural programs relevant to his life and works. Dr. Gifford received the B. A. Degree from Maryville College, the M.A. Degree from Middle Tennessee State University, and his Ph. D. in history from the University of Georgia. Dr. Gifford has also won professional awards as a teacher, author, editor and publisher.
Under Dr. Gifford's guidance, the JSF Staff has published more than 140 books, including works from authors like Allan Eckert, Billy C. Clark, Harry M. Caudill, and, of course, Jesse Stuart. Dr. Gifford has also made more than 500 public presentations and published more than 50 magazine and journal articles and hundreds of newspaper articles.
Dr. Gifford's 2010 biography, Jesse Stuart: An Extraordinary Life, was nominated for the Weatherford Award for best book in Appalachian non-fiction, and his new book, Jesse Stuart: Immortal Kentuckian has just been published and is on sale now.
In the late 1970s, Dr. Gifford declined an editorial appointment at Yale University because of his commitment to the people of Appalachian. In a recent article, he reflected on his life's work: "The Jesse Stuart Foundation has become a sensitive interpreter of the hopes, dreams and accomplishments of a great regional people. We have become your voice too, speaking your unspoken thoughts, dreaming with you about things you had never hoped to realized, and stirring ambitions within you that had long been dormant in your soul. That's what books do."