Gerald Barrax, a noted poet and retired educator, was one of six people honored with the 2009 North Carolina Award, one of the state’s highest civilian honors.

Former Bank of America President and CEO Hugh McColl Jr. also joined the list.

The awards were announced Wednesday by the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

Barrax, who earned the award for literature, is recognized as one of North Carolina’s most eminent and accomplished writers. His works often dealt with life experiences and touched on topics such as of love, family, nature and religion.

He became a visiting professor at North Carolina Central University in Durham in 1969 and taught American literature and poetry writing at North Carolina State University in Raleigh from 1970 until retirement in 1997.

The job of the poet, Barrax once said, is to tell the truth.

Barrax has published six books of poetry, including “Leaning Against the Sun,” which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. He has five children and eight grandchildren. He lives in Raleigh with his wife, Joan.

McColl was honored for public service.

As past CEO of Bank of America, the selection committee said, McColl “transformed 20th-Century banking using technology, mergers and acquisitions and competitive acumen. Under his tenure the bank grew almost fiftyfold. He believes in building strong cities and communities, and also is a benefactor to the arts and education, and a visionary in his community.”

Other 2009 winners were:

SCIENCE: Joseph DeSimone, of Chapel Hill, one of the nation’s premier scientists, is on the cutting edge of research with revolutionary results for cancer treatment, green chemistry and photovoltaics. His breakthroughs and nanotechnology applications in the fields of polymer chemistry, pharmacology and biomolecular engineering are life-changing and world-saving inventions.

PUBLIC SERVICE: Betty Ray McCain, of Wilson, has long been a force in the civic and political life of North Carolina. She has made an imprint as a volunteer for causes from health care to politics and in public service as past secretary of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, board member for UNC-Chapel Hill Cancer Center, UNC-TV, and many others. She was the first woman to chair the state Democratic Party.

FINE ARTS: Mark Peiser, of Penland, is a master of the studio glass movement. His works are in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, National Museum of American History-Smithsonian Institution and other national and international museums. He pushes the boundaries of the medium to produce lyrical, luminous and innovative art.

FINE ARTS: Bo Thorp, of Fayetteville, built Cape Fear Regional Theater into a company to rival any in the country; it is considered a treasure in her hometown and is the cultural touchstone of the community. She serves as artistic director, in supporting or starring roles, as producer and fundraiser. For decades she has trained artists and administrators on service and survival.

The awards will be presented Oct. 29 in Raleigh.

Created by the General Assembly in 1961, the North Carolina Awards have been presented annually since 1964 to recognize significant contributions to the state and nation in the fields of fine arts, literature, public service and science.

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