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Family, professor establish creative writing award in IUPUI student’s memory


INDIANAPOLIS — The family and a professor of an Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis alumnus have established an award program in memory of the student and his love for words and writing.

Tom and Carole Sharp, of Mill Creek, Ind., along with Karen Kovacik, an English professor in the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, created the Eric Sharp Gateway Poetry and Fiction Writing Awards in the memory of Eric Sharp, a School of Liberal Arts graduate.

The first two awards, $100 each, were presented this spring during the School of Liberal Arts Celebration of Scholarship to Erin Furnish and Keegan Cooper, for the best poem and short story, respectively.

Open to students enrolled in introductory-level writing courses at IUPUI, the Sharp awards seek to encourage new creative writing students who are just beginning to find their voices.

“Learning to write can feel like a long trudge,” Kovacik said. “Winning an award can provide much-needed encouragement.”

The professor and the Sharp family set up the funding for the annual awards after Eric’s death from cancer in November; he was 39. Dozens of friends, family members and co-workers celebrated his life with donations to the award program, making it possible to endow the awards in perpetuity.

“While visiting Eric in the hospital and sharing memories of him with his parents and siblings, I remembered what a positive influence Eric had on his fellow students, how committed he was to diversity, and how he taught through wit and humor and kindness,” Kovacik said. “I wanted his memory to live on.”

His son loved words and the creative writing process, Tom Sharp said, recalling Eric’s tireless desire for reading as a small child, particularly such books as “The Cat in the Hat,” “Lovable Lyle” and “Alexander and the Magic Mouse.”

“We would read these books over and over and over to him,” Tom Sharp said. “This gave him a fascination and appreciation for words early in his life. As a matter of fact, looking through Eric’s possessions, he still, somehow, hung onto these books after almost 35 years.”

Eric Sharp’s passion for writing was equaled by a passion for helping the less fortunate, the father said. Eric championed causes such as the Human Rights Campaign, the Simon Youth Foundation and Global Gifts.   

“This award (program) re-enforces the fact that Eric was truly loved and respected by so many people as demonstrated by the many ‘well wishes’ and visits while he was ill,” Tom Sharp said. “It was the generosity of his many friends that made it possible for this endowment to go forward.”