This title, currently held by 17 professors university-wide, is reserved for faculty whose accomplishments have brought special renown to USC. Everett joins five other Distinguished Professors with appointments in the College, including Nobel laureate George A. Olah and fellow novelist and creative writing teacher T.C. Boyle.
In announcing Everett’s appointment Feb. 7, USC Provost C.L. Max Nikias said, “The multifaceted talent of Percival Everett, Distinguished Professor of English, is demonstrated in 14 novels, six volumes of short fiction and poetry, and many short stories. … He is hailed as a captivating and challenging teacher.”
"I don't know what to say," Everett said. "I feel honored and certainly appreciative of this recognition."
Everett has earned acclaim for lyrical prose and for balancing a sharp satirical eye and hyper-literate sensibility with deeply felt exploration of character and a fearless approach to hot-button issues related to race, class and sexuality. Since publishing his first novel in 1983, he has worked in a number of genres, including the American western, metafiction, children’s literature, and reimagining the Greek myth.
His latest novel, Wounded (Graywolf Press, 2005), won the 2006 PEN USA Literary Award for best fiction. He received the Academy Award for Literature of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Erasure (University Press of New England, 2001); the PEN/Oakland-Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature for the story collection Big Picture (Graywolf, 1996); and a New American Writing Award for Zulus (Permanent Press, 1990). In 2005, he released a collection of poetry entitled re: f (gesture) (Red Hen Press).
College Dean Peter Starr praised Everett, calling him “richly deserving of the honor. … In addition to his creative work, Percival has served the College as chair of the English department, and he is an admired teacher as well.”
Born in Columbia, S.C., Everett joined the College faculty in 1999 after stints at the University of Kentucky, Notre Dame and the University of California, Riverside. He leads fiction workshops in the English department’s selective doctoral program in literature and creative writing.