Former Troy alumnus and visiting lecturer, author and philanthropist Wade Hall died at the age of 81 on Friday, Sept. 25.
Hall, a Union Springs native, earned his bachelor’s degree in English from the then Troy State Teachers College at the age of 19 and received his master’s from the University of Alabama. He earned his doctorate in English from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.
After his education, Hall spent many years as a professor in Kentucky. He later retired in his hometown of Union Springs.
In Kentucky, Hall published books, plays, poems, book reviews, and interviews with writers and artists. His interviews resulted in a long-running television program, “Wade Hall’s Kentucky Desk.”
Hall also made several contributions to Troy University, which included donating books, manuscripts, and other rare archival materials to the library.
Michael Orlofsky, professor in the English department, remembers Hall as a generous friend to himself and to the university.
“He approached Troy first and said he would like to endow what would be called the Hall-Waters Southern Prize,” Orlofsky said. “His intention was to provide the English department the opportunity to invite in visiting writers on an annual basis. We were able to bring in Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg and others. One of the nicest events that we put together was bringing Senator John Lewis to the campus.”
The Hall-Waters Southern Prize also afforded the university the opportunity to host Pulitzer Prize-winning author Shirley Ann Grau, as well as widely-respected writers like Sena Jeter Naslund and Bobbie Ann Mason.
Orlofsky said that Troy opened Hall’s eyes to the larger world, and students who had the opportunity to meet visiting authors because of the Hall-Waters Southern Prize had their eyes opened too.
Kirk Curnutt, professor and chair of the English department at the Montgomery campus of Troy, remembers Hall’s attachment to the university and is grateful that he chose to give back to Troy.
“Dr. Hall was deeply attached to Troy University, which he attended as a precocious teenager,” Curnutt said. “Every time I was on the Troy campus with him he would point out the spots he remembered and talk about riding the train back and forth from home.
“We are very fortunate that he endowed the Hall-Waters Prize at Troy. He could have invested his money in any numbers of institutions he was associated with during his career. But he wanted this university, the first place to give him a taste of the scholar’s life, to have an annual award to bestow that would honor Southern writing. He wanted it both for Troy’s English department and for the wider campus itself.”
Hall’s most recent donation to the university was a set of original building plans designed by renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
According to Orlofsky, university officials anticipate using these in the construction of a “Usonian House” as part of the larger amphitheater project in the vicinity of New Residence Hall.
In addition to his donations, Chancellor Jack Hawkins, Jr. remembers Hall as a “true Trojan” who was extremely inspired during his time at the university.
“Dr. Wade Hall’s success story—he was the first in his rural Bullock County family to attend college—reflects the very best of the Troy University experience,” Hawkins said.
“His stellar career as a professor and author started in our classrooms. He was a world-renowned author, but he never forgot his south Alabama roots. He was a model alumnus, giving back to his alma mater in a variety of ways, but his greatest value to our university was the pride he took in his Troy degree. He was a true Trojan and a great friend of our university. We will miss his wit, his passion for learning and the fine arts, and his devotion to Troy.”
Hall’s funeral was held on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at Liberty Baptist Church in Union Springs.