About the Sower Award in the Humanities

Humanities Nebraska presents the Sower Award in the Humanities annually to honor an individual who has made a significant contribution to the public understanding of the humanities in Nebraska. This contribution can be made through any combination of time, expertise, or resources. The selection committee will consider how nominees have helped enrich the lives of Nebraskans through the humanities: history, literature, culture, philosophy, and all the ways we explore what it means to be human.

Each year, the Sower Award in the Humanities is presented prior to the annual Governor’s Lecture in the Humanities. The award recipient must be present. In some past years the Sower Award was presented to organizations or communities; as of 2016 only individuals are eligible for nomination. Current board and staff members of Humanities Nebraska are not eligible.

Nomination deadline for the 2022 Sower Award will be announced after the first of the year.

Previous honorees have included: 

  • Talented humanities faculty who have taken the humanities to the public beyond their classroom;
  • Committed volunteers dedicating their time and energy to enhancing the cultural life of Nebraska;
  • Thoughtful journalists and filmmakers bringing the humanities to bear on important public issues;
  • Generous philanthropists who have directed significant financial support to humanities-related programs and projects accessible by Nebraskans

Past Sower Award Recipients:

Individuals: Marian Andersen, Robert Audi, Keith Blackledge, Marion Marsh Brown, Gene Bunge, Jack Campbell, State Sen. LaVon Crosby, Nancy Duncan, Walter Friedlander, Judi gaiashkibos, John Gottschalk, Natalie Hahn, Richard Holland, Jane Renner Hood, Ron Hull, Ted Kooser, Frederick Luebke, Robert Manley, Jack McBride, Gary Moulton, Ron Naugle, Robert Nefsky, Paul Olson, Don Pederson, Rhonda Seacrest, Todd Simon, Joe Seger, Bernice Slote, Annette and Paul Smith, Pamela Hilton Snow, Joe Starita, E.N. “Jack” Thompson, Charles “Chuck” Trimble, Morrie Tuttle, Don Welch, Larry Wewel, and John R. Wunder.

Institutions: Beatrice Public Library, Commercial Federal Savings and Loan, Cooper Foundation, El Museo Latino, Holdrege Public Library, InterNorth Foundation, Peter Kiewit Foundation, Nebraska Educational Telecommunications, Nebraska Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Omaha World Herald, Septemberfest Committee of Omaha, Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Education Foundation, and the Woods Charitable Fund.

Communities: Aurora, Central City, Chadron, Cozad, David City, Gering, Henderson, Oakland, Scottsbluff, Seward, and Verdigre.

Congratulations to 2021 Sower Award Recipient John R. Wunder

Humanities Nebraska has selected author and historian of the American West John R. Wunder to receive the 2021 Sower Award in the Humanities.

A long-time University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) history professor, Wunder has written about the Great Plains, Nebraska, Plains Indians, and American and Constitutional legal history. He has published or edited 22 books and numerous essays and journal articles. His book “Retained by the People: A History of American Indians and the Bill of Rights” (1995) won the Phi Alpha Theta national history honorary society’s award for the best history book that year. He has won many other awards and fellowships, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from Native American Scholars.

“John Wunder’s ability to capture the imagination of people of all ages, through his teaching, his community participation, and the extension of his work through his writing, speaks directly to the meaning of the Sower Award and the symbol of excellence it represents,” said nominator Ron Hull. Hull is an author, a former general manager of the Nebraska public television network, a former PBS executive, and the 2000 recipient of the Sower Award.

Wunder is described as an accomplished administrator, educator, mentor, and leader. He has served as director of the Center for Great Plains Studies and president of the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society. He was also the first scholar from Nebraska to be chosen as president of the 1,300-member Western History Association.

Wunder will be honored on October 12, 2021 during the 26th Annual Governor’s Lecture in the Humanities at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha. Titled, “Finding Your Roots: A Conversation with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,” the free public event will begin at 7 p.m. following a benefit reception to help raise funds to support HN’s statewide programming. A live-stream viewing option will also be available.