Department of Rhetoric & Writing
Department of Rhetoric & Writing

Heather Yarrish Awarded Trimble Prize for Excellence in Writing

Thu, August 17, 2017
Heather Yarrish Awarded Trimble Prize for Excellence in Writing
Heather Yarrish with award-winning essay

A high school lesson on the atomic bomb never sat well with Heather Yarrish. “My history teacher played a video that discussed the bomb in a positive, patriotic way,” she recalls, “praising the science behind it and talking about how it ended the war. I was upset given the bomb’s actual atrocity.” 

Years later, Yarrish used the “vivid memory” as the impetus for a 23-page paper written for Prof. Michael Stoff’s history class, The U.S. and the Second World War. In the paper, “Suppressing the Debate: The Emerging Narrative of the Atomic Bomb,” Yarrish explores “how the patriotic, triumphant story of the atomic bomb came to be through the first (censored) reports from the ruins of Nagasaki.” 

And on May 5, Yarrish, a double major in Rhetoric & Writing and History, was awarded the Trimble Prize for Excellence in Writing by a three-person committee that unanimously chose her paper as the best submission. The award, given annually for outstanding undergraduate work in nonfiction prose, is named for John Trimble, Emeritus Professor of Rhetoric & Writing and English, whose legendary signature course, Advanced Expository Writing, has been credited with revolutionizing students’ attitudes toward writing and editing.

Of Yarrish’s work, Trimble, one of the committee members, remarked: “Excellent, mature writing in every respect — cleanly styled, coherent, glitch-free. Though long, it kept my attention and respect throughout and covers a lot of material representing hours of research and drafting.” Yarrish was presented with the honor by committee chair and honors director Prof. Linda Ferreira-Buckley following the department’s honors colloquium, at which Yarrish presented her honors thesis, “White Protests, Black Riots: Racialized Representation in American Media.”

“It was completely unexpected,” Yarrish says, “and my mom was there! I was so happy she got to see me receive the award.” Soon after, Yarrish received a congratulatory phone call from Trimble, who now lives in Colorado. “Talking to him was just as reaffirming as the moment I received the award,” she recalls. “The first thing he did was give me every compliment I’d ever wanted to hear about my writing. From what I’ve heard from other UT faculty, Prof. Trimble scrutinizes students’ writing, so when that praise came I felt incredibly humbled, and it motivated me to keep at it.”

Heather Yarrish arrived at UT as an International Relations major but became intrigued with Rhetoric and switched majors after her first semester. “I jumped right in,” she says, “and every Rhetoric course I’ve taken since has reinforced that decision.” After participating in the Normandy Scholar Program, which focuses on World War II, her junior year, she added History as a second major. “I do consider Rhetoric my ‘main’ major — the one closest to my interests,” she says. “But now it’s difficult to make a distinction because in my rhetoric classes I usually focus on history, and in my history classes, I usually focused on rhetoric. Rhetoric is a great lens to view history through.”

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