2017 Humanities Awards

On April 13, 2017, the Bright Lights Awards Dinner presented by Entergy Louisiana brought guests from around the state to Shaw Center in Baton Rouge for a celebration of the LEH’s annual humanities awards. Featured speakers included 2017 Humanist of the Year William Joyce, Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser, National Endowment for the Humanities Chair William D. Adams, and Sharon Weston Broome, mayor of Baton Rouge.


View photos from the 2017 Bright Lights Event


View video of the event below:

2017 Humanist of the Year

William Joyce has achieved worldwide recognition as an author, illustrator and pioneer in the digital and animation industry. In 2009, he co-founded Moonbot Studios, a multimedia storytelling company, exploring books, apps, films and video games. The studio’s projects have won numerous awards and accolades, including an Oscar for Best Animated Short, Annie Award, multiple Webby and Emmy Awards and inclusion in the iTunes App Store Hall of Fame. Since beginning his career as a children’s book author and illustrator, Joyce has nearly 50 books to his credit. Named by Newsweek magazine as “one of the 100 people to watch in the new millennium,” he has produced, written and designed projects with nearly every major film studio including BlueSky, Disney, DreamWorks Animation, Twentieth Century Fox and Pixar. His feature films, all based on his books, include “Epic,” “Rise of the Guardians,” “Robots” and “Meet the Robinsons.” His television series include “George Shrinks” and “Rolie Polie Olie,” for which Joyce has won five Emmy Awards, three Silver medals and one Gold medal from the Society of Illustrators.

In addition to Joyce, the LEH named these individuals and organizations as 2017 awardees:

Chair’s Institutional Award

Carolyn W. and Charles T. Beaird Family Foundation funding ($155,000) has become an integral part of a consortium of partners—private foundations and corporate donors—who are determined to significantly improve school readiness and education results in the Caddo/Bossier region. Without Beaird Family Foundation support, PRIME TIME would not have achieved the success it has in the area, but more importantly, nor would the children and their families who benefited from the programs. 

W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s long-term, multi-million dollar commitment to the Gulf South may be unsung publicly, but the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and the families who have participated in the PRIME TIME Programs funded by Foundation are certainly singing the Foundation’s praises. By committing $475,000 to PRIME TIME programs, the Kellogg Foundation has chosen to stand with vulnerable families so that children can improve their reading skills, succeed in school, and their parents can become active participants in their children’s education.

Champion of Culture Award

William D. Adams has served as the 10th Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities since 2014. Adams is a committed advocate for liberal arts education whose tenure has included strong support for the public humanities, veterans’ programming, and several projects in Louisiana, including PRIME TIME Family Reading Time.

Humanities Books Award

The LEH recognizes two outstanding works of history as 2017 Books of the Year. Teche: A History of Louisiana’s Most Famous Bayou (University Press of Mississippi) by Shane K. Bernard is an extraordinary engagement with the colorful history of a storied Louisiana inland waterway. Hard Scrabble to Hallelujah, Volume 1: Bayou Terrebonne, Legacies of Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana (University Press of Mississippi) by Christopher Everette Cenac with Claire Domangue Joller presents a landmark record of one of the most important eras in the south central coastal bayou parish of Terrebonne.

Humanities Documentary Film Award

Directed by David Hylan and Raydra Hall, Small Town Rage: Fighting Back in the Deep South is a powerful history of the Shreveport chapter of the Act Up activist group during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and early 1990s. www.smalltownrage.com

Michael P. Smith Memorial Award for Documentary Photography

A New Orleans native who now lives in Atlanta, Eric Waters has been a professional photographer for more than 30 years. His work has been seen in national and local magazines, newspapers, brochures and show bills, and on CD covers. He was the lead photographer for “Ties That Bind,” an exhibit and catalog sponsored by the Casey Foundation, and “Great Day in New Orleans” a group photo capturing 283 New Orleans African-American artists of all genres. www.ericwatersphotography504.com

Light Up for Literacy Award

Richard Louth is professor of English at Southeastern Louisiana University and Founding Director of the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project, an initiative devoted to improving the teaching of writing at all academic levels.

Lifetime Contribution to the Humanities

Susan Tucker served as Curator of Books and Records at the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women from 1988 to 2015. An author, editor, and archivist, Tucker has produced and supported a breadth of scholarship that has broadened the rich history and literature of Louisiana.

Distinguished Board Service

Phil Earhart and Michael Bernstein



View a list of awardees since 1985

For more information on the Humanities Awards,
contact Brian Boyles at boyles@leh.org or 504.620.2632.


Master of Ceremonies:

Billy Nungesser
Lieutenant Governor


2017 Host Committee:

Mark Gremillion, Lafayette
Deborah Harkins, New Orleans
Elizabeth Ary, New Orleans
Mary Shaddock Jones, Lake Charles
Kevin Kelly, Burnside
Dorian Bennett, New Orleans
Jody Montelaro, Baton Rouge
Paul A. Tessier, Baton Rouge
Mary Ann Sternberg, Baton Rouge
Liz Mangham, Baton Rouge
Tom Clark, Baton Rouge
Ty Bromell, Baton Rouge