“Peace has been an important theme to me since my childhood,” says Sharon Rab, founder and co-chair of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. “I grew up in Fairborn, a military town. I remember hearing military airplanes taking off, and riding my bicycle to the Air Force museum. I was particularly fascinated by a mural that was, at the time, right inside the door, depicting Japanese kamikaze pilots during World War II flying into the decks of Allied ships. I remember thinking, I don’t understand.”
“I realized, as I grew older and was able to reflect back on what it meant to grow up in Fairborn, that the people I know most concerned with peace are members of the military,” says Rab, who grew up in a family with military experience and connections.
These themes were part of her acceptance speech for an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, awarded by Wright State University at its fall commencement in December.
“I also addressed the spirit of inventiveness at Wright State, in Fairborn and in the greater Dayton area,” Rab explains. “That spirit is part of the fabric of this area. I learned early on that if you come up with an idea, someone, somewhere, is going to question that idea, but at the same time, with enthusiasm, plenty of groundwork, and a team that also believes in the idea, you can accomplish amazing things.”
Inspired by the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia, Rab conceived the idea for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize (www.daytonliterarypeaceprize.org) , the only international literary peace prize awarded in the United States and celebrates the power of literature to promote peace, social justice, and global understanding.
In 2015, the Dayton Peace Accords reached its 20-year-anniversary, while the Dayton Literary Peace Prize (DLPP) achieved its 10-year mark.
“Knowing that we were coming up on these important anniversary dates, I felt it was time that Sharon received recognition as the founder and co-chair of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize,” says Dr. Carol Loranger, Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of English Language & Literatures and Faculty President at Wright State University. “Sharon is a graduate of Wright State University and exemplifies the qualities we look for in a recipient of the honorary Doctorate, particularly in contributing to the betterment of humanity. It was not difficult to make the case for Sharon based on her outstanding work through the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.
Rab graduated from Miami University with a B.A. in English, and then went on to earn her Masters of Education in Curriculum and Supervision from Wright State University in 1975. She taught English for 30 years at Fairmont High School in Kettering, and also taught at Miami University.
Loranger has been involved with the Dayton Literary Peace Prize since its second year. She serves on the peace prize steering committee and the selection committee for the DLPP’s Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award. Additionally, she spearheaded and worked with Wright State Libraries on the creation of a bibliography of DLPP winners and runners-up ( http://corescholar.libraries.wright.edu/dlpp/)
“The nominees for the honorary doctorate can’t know they’ve been nominated,” Loranger explains. “My role was to put together the nomination packet, including gathering letters of recommendation. It was inspiring to read the enthusiastic letters from numerous supporters, including Robert Taft, former governor of Ohio, Sharon Kelly Roth, Director of Public Relations at Books & Co. at the Greene, Dayton City Commissioner Matt Joseph, current Chair of the Welcome Dayton Committee, and others, including past recipients of the DLPP.”
Loranger adds that all nominations are carefully reviewed by the Faculty committee, which sends its recommendations to the university president, who in turn sends his recommendation to the university’s board of trustees. Only one honorary doctorate may be awarded per academic year; some years, no honorary doctorate is awarded.
Rab says she was surprised upon learning of the award. “It’s been the thrill of a lifetime,” she says.
What remains most important to her, though, “is knowing how people can be changed by books. I saw that time and time again as a teacher. Truthfully, whenever someone asks me if I had any doubts about the viability of establishing this prize, I answer ‘no,’ because I believe in the transformative power of literature, and in Dayton as a region dedicated to innovation, reading, and peace.”
Upcoming Literary Events
- Wednesday March 3, marks the deadline for purchasing tickets online at at www.wclibrary.info/atastingwithfriends for Washington-Centerville Public Library’s fundraiser, “A Tasting with Friends Featuring Local Authors, Great Wines and Beers.” The event will be held on Thursday, March 10, 6:30-8:30 at Yankee Trace Banquet Center in Centerville, featuring local authors, live music, hors d’oeuvres, wine/beer sampling, and book sales. Tickets may also be purchased at the door on the day of the event.
- Saturday March 5, 1-4 p.m., Author Fair and Pre-Fair Reading, Wright Memorial Public Library, 1776 Far Hills Ave.: A pre-fair open mic will feature Wright Library Poets and Writers from 1-2 p.m. Featured authors will read from 2-4 p.m. Books will be available for purchase. Visit www.wrightlibrary.org for details.
- Saturday, March 5, 2 p.m., Books & Co. at The Greene: Celebrate Dr. Seuss — whose birthday is March 2 — with a Seuss-related story time and activities.
- Monday, March 7, 7 p.m., Books & Co. at The Greene: Linda Sue Park introduces a new fantasy series with “Wing & Claw: Forest of Wonders”
- Saturday, March 12, 11:30-4, Patterson Homestead (1815 Brown St., Dayton): The Dayton region of the Jane Austen Society of North America presents “Mr. Darcy in Film,” a program about the iconic hero’s various film incarnations and the actors — from Sir Laurence Olivier to Colin Firth — who have portrayed him. The program also includes high tea and an opportunity to shop at the Jane Austen Books traveling bookstore. RSVP deadline is March 7. For more information and details on registering, visit www.jasnadayton.org.