Pinehurst Woman Receives Ragan Award
St. Andrews Presbyterian College presented the 29th Annual Sam Ragan Fine Arts Awards to four lifelong artistic contributors during an event last Thursday evening.
"We are in the big top and the cheers will echo from the roof in honor of our four distinguished recipients," said St. Andrews President Paul Baldasare after reading a poem by the late Sam Ragan that referenced such an enthusiastic response.
The honorees were Lois Holt, of Pinehurst, for her work with literary programs; Thomas Heffernan, of Laurinburg, for poetry; Martha Blue Hooks, of Laurinburg, for art; and Sally Ann Morris, of Winston-Salem, for music.
"Martha Blue Hooks has truly lived the life of an enthusiastic art contributor," said Stephanie McDavid, associate professor of art, in introducing the recipient with the distinction of being the only person to exhibit a flower arrangement in the North Carolina Museum of Art with the Japanese Kimono Exhibit.
Her arrangements have also been exhibited in the North Carolina State School of Design, Lord and Taylor and Neiman Marcus in Atlanta, as well as the front window of Ivey's in Raleigh and many other Raleigh area malls.
Hooks credits her support system for allowing her to pursue her artistic activities, including her grandfather, Senator Lauchlin M. Blue.
"I discovered the beauty of nature with my grandfather," she said. "I still remember that when I was very young he would take me on walks in the woods. It was a wonderful beginning to my appreciation of nature."
Her appreciation of nature helps her with the art of Japanese flower arrangement where the placement of every leaf and flower is considered. "I've had a wonderful life and lots of opportunities to study in Japan under the sponsorship of the Japanese."
"I can never thank St. Andrews enough," Hooks said. "I am deeply grateful for the enhancement of my golden years."
Award-winning poet Ann Deagon introduced Heffernan as one of the "notorious practitioners of the arts."
"When I attempted to print his rsum, the warning came up that the margins extend beyond the printable area," she said. "It did not surprise me as the world is spangled with his literary pursuits."
Deagon presented Heffernan with a Sam Ragan bow tie so he could "tie one on in Sam's honor."
"I am honored to join those who have received this award before me," said Heffernan, a noted poet and haiku master who has received numerous awards for his work, including the grand prize in the 11th International Kusamakura Haiku Competition in Tokyo, Japan. "I am unique in that I am currently teaching at St. Andrews and to my understanding none of my predecessors has had that distinction. It allows me to say that the education in liberal arts received here is in the character expressed by Sam Ragan. The culture of expression remains alive and well."
That spirit of expression is also alive and well in Holt.
"Lois has the gift of expressing a singular incident to express profound insights in experience," said Edna Ann Loftus, professor of English. "She has served the arts community of North Carolina and encouraging other writers to share their voices."
Holt was a student of Ragan's in workshops beginning in 1960s and shared items from her Sam Ragan folder with the assembled, including her works in his honor that appeared in Pembroke Magazine and the special Sam Ragan Edition of the St. Andrews Review.
"It is such an honor to be included," she said. "I spent two days going through my folder in preparation for this wonderful evening."
Morris, a 1975 graduate of St. Andrews, shared her joy over receiving the award for finding her calling in life to compose hymn tunes.
"I was asked to write a hymn tune for a church's 100th anniversary," she said. "I was amazed to learn that I could write an entire piece of music that starts and ends on one page. Without poets, I would have no job."
The Sam Ragan Fine Arts Awards were initiated in 1981 in honor of Ragan, North Carolina's first secretary of cultural resources, and to celebrate the fact that North Carolina was the first in the United States to establish a cabinet-level position recognizing the fine arts.
Ragan also served as the state's poet laureate and was the editor and publisher of The Pilot newspaper in Southern Pines.
Previous recipients have included Gov. Bob Scott, David Brinkley, Loonis McClohon, Kathryn Gurkin, Paul Jeffrey, Sally Nixon, Sally Buckner, and the Right Rev. Shelby Spong.
More like this story