Is an M.F.A. required for a PEN/Hemingway, PEN/Faulkner, or Pulitzer?

I went through the award winners from 2001-2010. There were 29 authors, as Philip Roth won the PEN/Faulkner award twice.

12/29 have M.F.A’s. 6 of those M.F.A’s are from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. 2 are from U.C. Irvine. There is 1 each from Cornell, Stanford, UVA, and Washingon University of St. Louis.

7/29 have M.A.’s. 1 Journalism from Columbia, 1 History from the University of Wisconsin, 1 Literature from University of Chicago, 1 in English from Shangdong University, 3 Creative Writing (1 from University Illinois of Chicago, 1 from University of Texas, 1 from Stanford).

3/29 have Ph.D.’s (all in English). 1 from University of Washington, 1 from University of Arizona, 1 from Brandeis.

3 or 4/29 have Law Degrees. 1 from Cambridge, 1 from Syracuse University, 1 from Duke, 1 from Harvard (it’s unclear if he graduated).

2/29 have Fellowships but no Master’s (I didn’t bother counting the fellowships of those with higher degrees). 1 Stegner Fellowship at Stanford, 1 Lannan Fellowship, which is a $150,000 prize.

John Updike had a drawing degree from Oxford, E.L. Doctorow dropped out from studying English Drama at Columbia (he was drafted), and Cormac McCarthy dropped out from undergrad.

1 person (Sherman Alexei) has nothing beyond a bachelor’s as far as I can tell.

The list of who has what degree and what prize they won and when is below the jump.

Most of this information (but not all) is from Wikipedia, and I am too lazy to go through and provide a link for each one. I’ll make a note when the info is not from Wikipedia.


2001 – Akhil Sharma – Recipient of the Stegner Fellowship at Stanford. Also attended Harvard Law (it’s unclear whether he graduated).

2002 – Justin Cronin – M.F.A. from Iowa Writer’s Workshop (from here on called IWW).

2003 – Gabriel Brownstein – M.F.A. from Columbia

2004 – Jennifer Haigh – M.F.A. from IWW

2005 – Chris Abani – Lannan Fellowship (2003)

2006 – Yiyun Li – M.F.A. from IWW

2007 – Ben Fountain – J.D. from Duke

2008 – Joshua Ferriss – M.F.A. from U.C. Irvine

2009 – Michael Dahlie – M.A. in History from University of Wisconsin, M.F.A. from Washington University of St. Louis. I got his information from his wedding page in The New York Times

2010 – Brigid Pasulka – M.A. in Creative Writing from University of Illinois at Chicago. Got this info from her website, although it doesn’t say what degree she got, the UIC Program for Writers only offers M.A.s and Ph.D.s

PEN/Faulkner Award

2001 – Philip Roth – M.A. in Literature from University of Chicago

2002 – Ann Patchett – M.F.A. from IWW

2003 – Sabina Murray – M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Texas

2004 – John Updike – He went to the Oxford School of Drawing and Fine Art as a post-grad (from Harvard). It’s unclear if he got a degree.

2005 – Ha Jin – Ph.D. from Brandeis University

2006 – E.L. Doctorow – One year studying English Drama at Columbia before he was drafted.

2007 – Philip Roth – See above

2008 – Kate Christensen – M.F.A. from IWW

2009 – Joseph O’Neill – Attended Cambridge Law and became a barrister

2010 – Sherman Alexie – None as far as I can tell. I hope to see him at the Decatur Book Festival and ask him in person.


2001 – Michael Chabon – M.F.A. from U.C. Irvine

2002 – Richard Russo – M.F.A. and Ph.D. from University of Arizona

2003 – Jeffrey Eugenides – M.A. in Creative Writing from Stanford

2004 – Edward P. Jones – M.F.A. from University of Virginia. Google “edward p. jones university of virginia” for any number of references.

2005 – Marilynne Robinson – Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington

2006 – Geraldine Brooks – Master’s in Journalism from Columbia

2007 – Cormac McCarthy – never got his bachelor’s

2008 – Junot Diaz – M.F.A. from Cornell

2009 – Elizabeth Strout – J.D. from Syracuse University

2010 – Paul Harding – M.F.A. from IWW

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