Honoree

Thomas French

AWARDS

Distinguished Alumni Awards in Journalism (2011)
B.A., 1981
Pulitzer Prize (1998)
Feature Writing

BIOGRAPHY

Thomas French has spent the past quarter century redefining the possibilities of journalistic storytelling, both in his writing and in his teaching around the world. French grew up in Indiana and attended journalism school at Indiana University's Bloomington campus, where he was a Poynter scholar and editor-in-chief at the Indiana Daily Student, and where he won a Hearst award for a profile of a giant hog at the Indiana State Fair. An editor at the St. Petersburg Times read the hog story and hired French, just as he was graduating from IU, as a night cops reporter.

French spent the next 27 years at the Times, covering hurricanes and criminal trials and the secret lives of high school students. He experimented with narrative techniques both on deadline and nondeadline work and specialized in serial narratives, book-length stories published one chapter at a time. In 1998, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing and a Sigma Delta Chi award for Angels & Demons, a series that chronicled the murder of an Ohio woman and her two teenage daughters as they vacationed in Tampa. Two of his other serials, A Cry in the Night and South of Heaven, were later published as books. His most recent project, Zoo Story, explored the inner world of Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo and was published in book form by Hyperion in 2010.

French is a Writing Fellow at the Poynter Institute and has taught there for more than 20 years. He also teaches in a nonfiction masters program at Goucher College, outside Baltimore, and has led narrative workshops across the United States and around the world, from the Nieman conference at Harvard to newsrooms in Dubai, Singapore, and Johannesburg. He is married to Kelley Benham, a national award-winning reporter and editor at the St. Petersburg Times, and has two sons.