Highest Honor for Tommy Hays

by The Great Smokies Writing Program Community

Tommy Hays
Photo by Michael Mauney

The fall issue of this publication was dedicated to honoring the retiring Executive Director of the Great Smokies Writing Program, Tommy Hays. We are delighted to congratulate Tommy again, for being named to The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the Governor of North Carolina. This award goes annually to persons who have made significant contributions to the state and their communities through exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments. Previous recipients of the Long Leaf Pine honor include former UNC System President William Friday, Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott King, Michael Jordan, Fred Chappell, Richard Petty, Oprah Winfrey, and many other leaders in business, education, public service, arts, entertainment, and sports.

News reports about Tommy’s award drew from comments by students and faculty that we collected for our fall 2020 issue. To read those memories and accolades, as well as a Profile by Managing Editor Marie Hefley, please go here.

Many of those reports also included this thought from Elizabeth Lutyens, editor in chief of The Great Smokies Review, and long-time member of the GSWP faculty: “Tommy Hays’ mastery of craft permeates every page of his novels, stories, and essays. His students and fellow writers benefit from that consummate skill, but perhaps even more from what lies between the lines. Tommy’s greatest praise for a piece is to say that it is so felt. You hear the italics. As executive director, Tommy led, taught in, and nourished UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program from its inception in 2000 until his retirement in 2020. During that time, he inspired the program’s students and teachers to put craft into the proper perspective; to aim for the real, for the heart of things.”