Weber-Clements Prize celebrates new name, first repeat winner

Gov. William P. Clements Jr.

Weber-Clements Prize celebrates new name, first repeat winner

'A Great Aridness' book coverSMU’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies celebrates the new name – and the first repeat winner – of its prestigious annual book prize with a lecture and booksigning by author and conservationist William deBuys on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013 in the University’s DeGolyer Library

DeBuys will discuss A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest as the 2012 winner of the renamed David J. Weber-William P. Clements Prize for the Best Non-Fiction Book on Southwestern America. The evening begins with a 6 p.m. reception and lecture at 6:30 p.m. A book-signing will follow immediately after the lecture.

Learn more about William deBuys

In A Great Aridness, deBuys paints a vivid picture of what the Southwest might look like when the heat turns up and the water runs out. This semi-arid region – vulnerable to water shortages, rising temperatures, wildfires and many other environmental challenges – is poised to bear the heaviest consequences of global environmental change in the United States.

Examining factors such as vanishing wildlife, forest die-backs and the over-allocation of the Colorado River (upon which nearly 30 million people depend for water), the author tells the stories of the climatologists and others who are helping to untangle the causes and effects of global warming. What happens in the Southwest, deBuys suggests, will provide a glimpse of what other mid-latitude arid lands such as the Mediterranean Basin, southern Africa and the Middle East will experience in the coming years. A 2008-09 Guggenheim Fellow, deBuys spent his fellowship year working on the book.

A Great Aridness is deeply researched, engagingly written, powerful in its arguments, and of urgent importance to anyone interested in the Southwest,” wrote the Weber-Clements Book Prize judging committee upon its selection. “This is clearly the work of a mature scholar and writer at the top of his game, and with a story to tell of critical importance.”

Clements Center Director Andrew Graybill added: “A Great Aridness is easily one of the best books about the single most pressing environmental issue of our time. And it’s written with Bill deBuys’ typical clarity and grace, making it accessible to anyone interested in the future of the American Southwest, and the planet more broadly.”

One of deBuys’ six books, Salt Dreams: Land and Water in Low-Down California, won the first Clements Prize in 1999. (DeBuys was the Carl B. and Florence E. King Senior Fellow in Southwest History at the Clements Center in 1999-2000.) Another work, River of Traps: A New Mexico Mountain Life, was a finalist for the 1991 Pulitzer Prize in general non-fiction. He has also written Enchantment and Exploitation: The Life and Hard Times of a New Mexico Mountain Range, The Walk, and Seeing Things Whole: The Essential John Wesley Powell.

An active conservationist, deBuys was the founding chairman of the Valles Caldera Trust (2001-04), which manages the 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve in northern New Mexico. He has helped protect more than 150,000 acres in New Mexico, Arizona and North Carolina. He lives and writes on a small farm in northern New Mexico.

Since 1999, the Clements Center for Southwest Studies has presented the award as the William P. Clements Prize for the Best Non-Fiction Book on Southwestern America. The prize was named for the former Texas governor and the Center’s founding benefactor, who passed away in May 2011.

In spring 2012, the Center approached the Western History Association (WHA) about taking over the administration of the prize as a way to honor both Governor Clements and David J. Weber, the Center’s founding director and past WHA president, who passed away in August 2010. The Weber-Clements Book Prize is now presented by the WHA Council and the Clements Center and is now administered by the WHA.

The $2,500 Weber-Clements Book Prize honors fine writing and original research on the American Southwest. The competition is open to any nonfiction book, including biography, on any aspect of Southwestern life, past or present.

> Visit SMU’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies online

February 11, 2013|Calendar Highlights, For the Record, News|

Gov. Bill Clements remembered as SMU alumnus and supporter

Bill and Rita Clements at SMU-in-TaosFormer Texas Governor William P. Clements Jr., a longtime major supporter of SMU academic programs, died May 29, 2011 in Dallas. He was 94 years old.

Clements’ relationship with SMU began in the mid-1930s, when he was an engineering student. Through the years he and his wife, Rita, have contributed more than $21 million for some of SMU’s highest academic priorities, including support for his special interest in the Southwest.

“Bill Clements’ generosity and guidance have made a significant impact on academic programs throughout SMU, with major gifts supporting engineering, theology, mathematics and history,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “By endowing the Clements Department of History, including a new Ph.D. program, and the Clements Center for Southwest Studies, he enabled students ranging from undergraduates to doctoral fellows to learn more about the history and cultures of this region. Bill and Rita Clements also made it possible for SMU to acquire, rebuild and offer academic programs at SMU-in-Taos, located on the site of historic Fort Burgwin in northern New Mexico. This facility has given generations of students and faculty a tremendous and unique resource for teaching, learning and research.

“Earlier, as chair of SMU’s Board from 1967-73 and again from 1983-86, Bill Clements led the formation of an endowment committee resulting in dramatic increases in market value. He led funding of the campus master plan that continues to guide our academic offerings, and with an eye for detail in bricks and mortar, he preserved the continuity of SMU’s Collegiate Georgian architecture.

“All this he accomplished with his typical no-nonsense approach and direct style of communication. His legacy as a business leader, public official and supporter of SMU will stand the test of time. He was a member of the SMU community for more than 70 years and he will be greatly missed.”

A memorial service honoring the life of Governor Clements will be held 4 p.m. Thursday, June 2 at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church.

Gifts to SMU in memory of Governor Clements can be directed to the William P. Clements Jr. Memorial Fund. Visit the SMU Giving homepage for information on how to make a gift to SMU.

> Read more on Gov. Clements and his more than 70-year relationship with SMU

Above, Bill and Rita Clements at the 2009 opening of new student housing they helped to provide for the SMU-in-Taos campus on the grounds of Fort Burgwin, New Mexico. Photo by Hillsman S. Jackson.

June 1, 2011|News|
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