OVERVIEW: Kentucky Pulitzer Prize Centennial Campfires Activities

Presented by:
Kentucky Humanities
Current Initiative: Centennial Campfires National Partner: The Pulitzer Prizes Local Partner: Colleges and Universities Subject: Journalism, Varies Audience: All, Children and Families, Colleges and Universities, Young Adult, Youth/Teen

The Kentucky Humanities Council focused its Pulitzer programming around the work of Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Joel Pett of the Lexington Herald Leader. “Sundays with Joel” featured Pett on the Murray State University (MSU) campus before an audience of community members and faculty discussing the role of the humanities, the changing face of political cartooning and the newspaper industry. The following evening Pett gave the convocation speech at the Governor’s Scholars Program (GSP), also being held at MSU. More than 350 rising seniors from across the Commonwealth participated in the GSP program, which is a 5-week summer residential program for the “best and the brightest” high school students in Kentucky. In addition to hearing Pett’s speech, students viewed the traveling art display and talked personally with Pett.

“UPIKE, Pett & Pulitzer” featured Joel Pett at the University of Pikesville addressing UPIKE students, faculty, and community members about the impact of the Pulitzer on his career, the landscape of political cartooning, and the current political climate. On Kentucky Book Fair Kids Day, Maria Henson conducted a Master Class with 300 Kentucky High School students. Her presentation entitled, “Is It Journalism? How Do You Know?” included an essay contest with the two winners afforded the opportunity to interview Professor Henson. The celebration concluded at the 35th annual Kentucky Book Fair with both Pulitzer Prize winners, Pett and Henson, addressed the public from the main stage.


The Kentucky Book Fair, presented by the Kentucky Humanities Council, attracts writers of all genres and patrons of all walks of life in celebration of a shared passion and mutual interest – the importance and promotion of writing and reading. Each year more than 150 authors participate, seeking to promote and support literacy for the public good. In 2016, special events focused on the Pulitzer Centennial including:

  • A master class for high school students with Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and journalist, Maria Henson
  • A press event & social reception with Pulitzer Prize winners Maria Henson & Joel Pett
  • A day of kids programming, Kids Day, to garner interest in the Pulitzer Prizes at a young age
  • My Morning Newspaper and Coffee on the plaza
  • Keynote address from Pulitzer Prize-winner Joel Pett
  • Interview and Q&A with Pulitzer Prize-winner Maria Henson

The Book fair drew large crowds of multiple generations. Kids Day welcomed more than 800 students and educators, while the next day, open to the general public, welcomed more than 2,700 attendees.

UPIKE, PETT, & PULITZER (September 2016)

Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Joel Pett was the featured guest speaker at the University of Pikeville during the council’s signature event entitled, “The Kentucky Humanities Council presents The Kentucky Book Fair.” Prior to Pett’s appearance, attendees were able to walk through a traveling art display featuring numerous editorial cartoons penned by Pett, including his Pulitzer Prize-winning pieces. During the presentation, Pett not only discussed the meaning of winning the Pulitzer for his career but also offered insights on events and issues that have changed the landscape and mindsets of his readers on a national, statewide, and local level. A Q&A session and reception with the audience followed. More than 130 students, faculty, and community members attended this event.


Joel Pett, 2000 Pulitzer Prize Winner for editorial cartooning, was the guest speaker at Murray State University. Prior to Pett’s presentation, attendees were able to walk through a traveling art display featuring numerous editorial cartoons penned by Pett, including his Pulitzer Prize-winning piece. Pett discussed his time at the Lexington Herald Leader, what the Prize meant to his career, and insights on events and issues facing his readers on a national, state, and local level. A Q&A session with the audience followed. 50 students, faculty, and community members attended this event.


  • University of Pikeville
  • Murray State University


  • Joel Pett (Editorial Cartooning, 2000)
  • Maria Henson (Editorial Writing, 1992)


  • Murray, KY
  • Frankfort, KY
  • Pikeville, KY

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