The William Block Sr. Award was founded by the same family who owns the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper.
Bill Block Sr., the late publisher of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, whose outstanding leadership of the newspaper for nearly 60 years was nationally recognized and locally esteemed, was most of all a lover of the written word—its power, its responsibility, and its beauty. Although he grew up as the son of Paul Block, one of the publishing world’s flamboyant pioneers, and as a boy found himself playing at the Hearst Castle and accompanying his father around the world to confer with heads of state, Bill was himself a humble, self-effacing man whose belief in the autonomy of his newsroom and his compassion for all people made him both the perfect publisher and the ideal citizen. His appreciation for the writing of his staff often led to a handwritten note slipped quietly on the desk of the writer, whether of a Pulitzer-Prize-winning story or an obituary of a homeless woman. The essence of the note would be the same, thanking the writer for making the words transform him. Bill died in 2005 at the age of 89.
The award is granted to senior and distinguished fiction writers, nonfiction writers, and poets.
Past William Block Sr. Writers include:
- 2001-2002 Richard Ford
- 2002-2003 Terry Tempest Williams
- 2003-2004 Richard Rodriguez
- 2004-2005 ZZ Packer
- 2005-2006 Michael Ondaatje
- 2006-2007 Patrick McCabe
- 2007-2008 Philip Gourevitch
- 2008-2009 Paul Muldoon
- 2009-2010 Sven Birkerts
- 2010-2011 Paul Kurlansky
- 2011-2012 Terrance Hayes
- 2012-2013 Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts