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The donor: Terry Whitehead

The gift: $60,000

The cause: Creating the Bridge Prize for short-story writing by postsecondary students.

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After Terry Whitehead graduated with a degree in English from the University of Lethbridge in 1994, he headed off to a career in business, but he also kept a keen attachment to literature and the university.

About 10 years ago, he started funding an annual $1,500 prize at the U of L for one-act playwriting. He followed that up with an annual short-story prize and another one for historical essays, bringing his total contribution to about $7,000 a year for all three prizes.

Mr. Whitehead wanted to go even further and he dreamed of creating a national literary prize for postsecondary students. Working with officials at the university, he’s now launched the Bridge Prize, a $7,500 award for the best short story written in English by a university or college student in Canada. Named after Lethbridge’s famous high-level railway bridge, the prize will be awarded by a panel of jurors every two years starting in 2020 and the three other finalists will receive $1,000 each.

“It’s meant to help bridge them into the world of becoming professional writers,” Mr. Whitehead said from his home in Vancouver where he runs Alexander Whitehead Executive Search Inc. He’s committed $60,000 to fund the prize for 10 years and he’s covering the honoraria for the judges.

He hopes the prize will eventually become a permanent fixture on the Canadian literary scene, as a kind of Giller Prize for postsecondary students, and help further Canada’s great tradition of short-story writing.

“If this prize helps to get the next generation of writers going, I’m just thrilled to be in the background,” he said. “The best thing I can write is a cheque.”

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