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Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award



Elmore Leonard ‘50, an internationally acclaimed author, is the recipient of University of Detroit Mercy’s Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. He is recognized for his five decades of written work, encompassing 43 novels as well as screenplays and short stories.

Leonard earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Detroit in 1950, majoring in English and Philosophy. While still in college, he joined Campbell-Ewald advertising agency and shortly after began writing western novels and short stories. From 1951 to 1961, he published 30 short stories and five novels; his novel Hombre, was selected as the best western of all times by the Western Writers of America in 1961. As westerns became less popular, he turned to writing educational and industrial films during the 1960s. He then began write crime novels. His “breakout” best seller came with the publication of Glitz in 1985. Each of his following novels has been a national best seller. In 2006 he completed Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Writing as a guide to the writing process.

Leonard’s work is admired for his originality, dialogue and research that provide depth and plausibility to story lines and characters. He has been referred to as the “Dickens of Detroit” for his portrayals of people from the city.

In 1992, the Mystery Writers of America honored Leonard with the Grand Master Award, which is awarded “only to individual who, by a lifetime of achievement have proven themselves preeminent in the craft of mystery and dedicated to the advancement of the genre”. He has received numerous other awards, including the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allen Poe Award for LaBrava in 1983 and the International Association of Crime Writers’ North American Hammett Prize for Maximum Bob in 1991. A number of his novels have been made into movies, including Get Shorty, Out of Sight and Be Cool.

In late 1970s, Leonard gave the University his collection of personal correspondence, rough drafts and manuscripts detailing the first 20 years of his career. The material was categorized and catalogued, resulting in the Elmore Leonard Collection housed in UDM’s McNichols Campus Library. The Collection serves as a learning tool for students, writers and scholars worldwide.

Leonard has also given presentations to classes and groups at the University over the years, sharing insight into his writing. In 1998, UDM awarded Leonard an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in recognition of his lifelong achievements an author and his contributions to the field of modern fiction       

The award was presented at The Ignatian Circle Dinner by Fr. Gerard Stockhausen, S.J., President of the University of Detroit Mercy, September 28, 2007.

University of Detroit Mercy

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