Graduate School to present Distinguished Alumnus Award

Author: Arts and Letters


The University of Notre Dame’s Graduate School will present its Distinguished Alumnus Award to Michael D. Collins, the acclaimed author of eight books, during the Graduate School Commencement Ceremony Saturday (May 17) at 10 a.m. in the Joyce Center.

Collins’ works include “The Secret Life of E. Robert Pendleton,” “Lost Souls,” "The Resurrectionists, “Emerald Underground,” “The Keepers of the Truth,” and “Death of a Writer.” His works have been translated into 20 languages.

The Distinguished Alumnus Award was established last year to mark the Graduate School’s first distinct commencement ceremony and is presented to an individual who has received a graduate degree from Notre Dame and made a difference to his or her field, community or society at large.

Collins attended Notre Dame from 1983 to 1987 on an athletic scholarship in cross country and track. He earned a master of arts in creative writing from Notre Dame in 1991 and a doctorate from the University of Illinois in 1997.

In 1995, while pursuing his doctorate, Collins was stabbed repeatedly and left for dead on the streets of Chicago during a vicious mugging. During his convalescence, he made a solemn promise that if he recovered, he would devote his running interests to fund-raising activities and exploring the world.

Almost two years after being stabbed, Collins journeyed to the Antarctic for The Last Marathon, winning the event and beginning his rise as a premier extreme athlete in remote endurance running. His accomplishments include winning the North Pole Marathon, the Mount Everest Marathon, the Himalayan 100 Mile Challenge and the Sub-Shahran Marathon.

Through sponsors, Collins supports humanitarian programs and literary programs throughout the world for underprivileged children and also supports literary prizes in the United States.

In 2007, Collins finished fifth at the USATF 50-Mile Championships (an exceptional performance for a 43-year-old), qualifying for a spot on the United States national team. He opted to represent his native Ireland at the 2007 World 100k Championships in Holland, where he set a national record for the distance.

Collins’ six novels and two collections of short stories have garnered a number of prestigious literary awards, including the Pushcart Best American Short Story Award, the Irish Novel of the Year Award and the London Times Book of the Year Award. He also was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, as well as the IMPAC prizes. He has earned three New York Times Notable Book of the Year awards, and his most recent novel, “Death of a Writer,” won the Novel of the Year award in France.

An adaptation of his novel “The Resurrectionists” will be released in 2009. Oscar winner John Madden, whose credits include “Shakespeare in Love,” will direct the film.

Collins’ first screenplay, “Julia,” directed by French director Erick Zonca was just completed. The movie, which stars Tilda Swindon, the winner of the 2007 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, is set for general release later this year in the U.S.

Collins and his wife, Dr. Heidi Collins, a 1991 Notre Dame graduate, and their four children, reside in Bellingham, Wash.

Originally published by William G. Gilroy at on May 16, 2008.