July 2018: Creative Writing and Literary Arts program to honor three graduating students with Jason Wenger Award

by Michelle Saport  |   

The first Wednesday of the UAA Creative Writing & Literary Arts (CWLA) Summer Residency always marks the graduation celebration and award night for the Jason Wenger Award. This year on July 11, 2018, three students will be presented with iceberg plaques and $750 for exceptional work on their theses.

The Jason Wenger Award for Excellence in Creative Writing is a memorial award to honor Jason Wenger, an MFA student in the CWLA resident program in 2007, who was randomly murdered by a meth-fueled killer on a rampage. Professor Sherry Simpson described Jason as, "two tons of fun," and Professor Mapson recalls Jason's humor as, "Mad Magazine-level. He rarely turned in a story without a remark that made everyone laugh." Jason is described by his friends as a fun-loving fellow, yet a kind person who took his work with the mentally challenged seriously and who attended church every Sunday. Friends, fellow students, and faculty joined to create this award and scholarship fund to carry on Jason's passion for writing.

The Wenger Award night is one of the most memorable nights of the annual CWLA Summer Residency. Every year the awardees are selected by an anonymous judge who is simply told, 'pick the three best theses,' and is given no additional criteria other than to read each the work of each graduating student. This year, the 10 students who have submitted their thesis await with excitement for the announcement on July 11 of the 2018 Awardees. Jason's memory lives on each year through these awards and a new round of students each year are invited to share in the celebration of Jason's life.

Professor Mapson recalls, "I was astonished by the town of Anchorage and never more proud to be a part of it after Jason's death. Restaurants donated their Valentine's Day proceeds to fund this award as well as helped pay for the other people who were shot. His memorial service was packed with friends and locals." The Jason Wenger Award continues to accept donations.

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