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Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer T.J. Stiles to present April 28 Simpson-Duvall Lecture at Whitworth

April 14, 2011
Biography subjects have included Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jesse James

Whitworth is honored to host award-winning biographer T.J. Stiles as the 2011 Simpson-Duvall lecturer. Stiles will present Thursday, April 28, at 7 p.m. in the Robinson Teaching Theatre in Weyerhaeuser Hall. Admission is free. For more information, please call (509) 777-3270.

Stiles, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, is a renowned biographer and author of The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War.

His most recent book, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (Vintage, 2010) is the winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize and the 2009 National Book Award for nonfiction. It chronicles the life of "a man who was born during the Washington presidency, had almost no formal education yet amassed a fortune of $100 million," says a review from Stiles' website. "[Vanderbilt] set the mold, Stiles argues, for a rough-and-tumble free-trade economy that still exists."

"In an era when we have faced one of the most severe financial crises in our nation's history, Vanderbilt's story can provide us with some important historical perspective," says Dale Soden, Whitworth professor of history.

Jesse James (Vintage, 2003) won the Ambassador Book Award and the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship. It also was named a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Biography and was a New York Times Notable Book of 2004.

Stiles is a 2011 fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and he has reviewed books for the New York Times Book Review,, the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle and Washington Post, among other publications. He also has written for the Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian and The Atlantic online. In the past, Stiles has taught creative nonfiction writing at Columbia University and has been interviewed for several documentaries about Jesse James.

The Simpson-Duvall Lectureship honors two of Whitworth's most distinguished professors: Clarence Simpson, professor of English from 1953-1980, and R. Fenton Duvall, professor of history from 1949-1981. The annual lectureship is held in appreciation for these two men's years of commitment and contributions to Whitworth; it continues, in their spirit, to enrich the university community. The lecture is held once each calendar year, and topics alternate between Simpson's and Duvall's disciplines, English and history.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Barbara Brodrick, academic program assistant, political science department, Whitworth University, (509) 777-3270 or

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or