UW News

April 21, 2003

Sherman Alexie to be UW Commencement speaker for 2003

News and Information

Award–winning writer and filmmaker Sherman Alexie will deliver the Commencement address at the University of Washington on June 14 in Husky Stadium.

Alexie is the first American Indian to speak at a UW Commencement.

Alexie’s work has won national praise over a decade of prolific writing. Among his honors are a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship (1992), the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award (1994), a Granta magazine listing among the Best American Novelists under Forty (1996), two appearances on the New York Times Notable Books of the Year list (1992 and 1996), being named “one of the top 20 writers for the 21st century” by the New Yorker magazine (1999) and a PEN/Malamud Award (2001).

Alexie’s books include the novels “Reservation Blues” and “Indian Killer,” the collections “The Toughest Indian in the World,” and “Ten Little Indians (to be published in June).” He also has turned two of his early books into films. “Smoke Signals” won two Sundance Film Festival Awards in 1998. His other film “The Business of Fancydancing,” was recently released.

Alexie, 36, grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation about 50 miles northwest of Spokane. He was one of six children of a Spokane Indian mother and a Coeur d’Alene father. After attending tribal elementary school, Alexie chose to become the only Indian student at Reardan High School, off the reservation, and then won a scholarship to Gonzaga University. Two years later he transferred to Washington State University, from which he graduated with a degree in American Studies.