Belhaven University Alumna and Prolific Mississippi Author Elizabeth Spencer Dies at 98

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Belhaven alumna Elizabeth Spencer ’42, a celebrated author and chronicler of the South, died on Sunday, December 22 at her home in Chapel Hill, N.C. 

Spencer is best known for her widely-popular The Light in the Piazza, Spencer is regarded as one of the foremost chroniclers of the American South.

Belhaven University’s Chair of Creative Writing Dr. Randall Smith said, “Elizabeth Spencer—a fearless, astute, nuanced, and accomplished writer and observer of the human condition—is the gold standard for the values, craft, and, honest creative commitment we teach in our B.F.A. program. Her visit to Belhaven in 2010 to meet with students and give a reading, remains a watershed moment in the program’s history. God bless and keep you, Elizabeth, and speed your work into the world.”

Spencer graduated from Belhaven University in 1942 and earned a master’s degree in literature from Vanderbilt University. Since 1948, she has published nine novels, seven short-story collections (including the 2001 Modern Library collection, The Southern Woman), and a memoir (Landscapes of the Heart).

She was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Spencer won many awards for her writing, including five O. Henry Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts. A musical version of her novella, The Light in the Piazza, won six Tony Awards.

Annually, Belhaven University honors an outstanding creative writing student with an award named after Spencer – the Elizabeth Spencer Creative Writing Award.

Click here for more on Elizabeth Spencer.

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