The Duluth Library Foundation, established in 1990, was made possible with a donation from the mysterious Mrs. Olga Walker. To this day, who Olga Walker is and why she donated $60,000 to the Duluth Public Library is still a mystery; however, as a thank you for her donation, the Foundation has been hosting the Olga Walker Awards & Author Event in her honor. 2023 will be the sixth year that this event has been hosted, excluding 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19.
The 6th annual Olga Walker Awards & Author Event will be honoring three recipients, Maurice and June Robinson Family Foundation, Tom and Pam Griffin, and Benedictine Sisters. The event will also be hosting critically acclaimed Korean-American author and writer, Marie Myung-Ok Lee. Lee will be discussing and signing her featured book The Evening Hero, a 2023 Minnesota Book Awards finalist, for this event.
Additionally, this year’s Olga Walker Event is a bit more unique than previous years. Why? Because there is a milestone that the Duluth Library Foundation is celebrating with this year’s event: surpassing $1 million gifted to the library! The Foundation has been raising money for the Duluth Public Library since its creation. The Foundation aimed to end 2022 by making a gift that would reach $1 million in cumulative gifts for the Duluth Public Library. Not only did they reach it, they surpassed it by over $40,000. Since 1990 the Foundation has made annual donations supporting library programs of all kinds, purchasing thousands of new books and materials (both physical and digital), implementing new technologies, and launching the Every Child Ready Duluth initiative.
The 2023 Olga Walker Awards and Author Event’s honorees and featured author are listed below.
The Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery, Duluth, Minnesota, are monastic women who seek God in community through a life of prayer and work. Living in accordance with the Gospel, and the Rule of St. Benedict, we respond to the needs of the Church and the world through our ministries. With openness, courage, and joy we bring our more than 1500-year Benedictine tradition and its core values to the world.
Our Monastery was established in 1892 in rented space at Munger Terrace and now thrives on an expansive 186-acre campus located at Kenwood Avenue, the home of St. Scholastica Monastery, a coeducational college, and a health-care complex. Over 125 years of determination and strength continues today through the Sisters’ ministry work, including education, governance, healthcare, peace and justice, pastoral care, spiritual direction, sponsorship, and more. The Sisters are honored to continue their ministry work in our communities and beyond.
Maurice and June Family Foundation
Maurice and June Robinson raised a family of book lovers in Green Bay, Wisconsin. As avid readers, they instilled the joy of reading in each of their three daughters, Susan, Mary, and Julie. Today, the sisters have fond childhood memories of going to the neighborhood branch library, and the main library in downtown Green Bay. Reading has remained an important focus in each of their lives.
Maurice worked for and then ran the family business, Robinson Metal, until his passing in 1998. He and June were longtime supporters of the Green Bay Library. June and Maurice’s daughter, Julie, settled in Duluth in 1983 and pursued her dream job working at the Duluth Public Library (DPL). June and Maurice loved to visit Julie and her family in Duluth, and appreciated the opportunity to extend their support to the DPL. Julie served as a reference librarian for thirty years, and retired in 2020. June continued reading and supporting the literary arts until her passing in 2021.
Tom and Pam Griffin
Tom and Pam Griffin have been in the charity business for many years donating their time, talents, and resources whenever and wherever possible. Tom and Pam are loyal volunteers to the Duluth Public Library (DPL). Since July 2018, they have volunteered a collective of 1,303.25 hours with the Friends of the Duluth Public Library. All of their volunteer hours are in the span of 6-7 months due to spending their winters in Florida. Pam has volunteered 738.50 hours at the DPL as of October 2022; Tom has volunteered 564.75 hours during this same time frame.
Aside from volunteering at the DPL, they have volunteered at Spirit Mountain as Mountain Hosts and Ski Patrol, manning aid stations and handing out race packets at Grandma’s Marathon and the North Shore Bike Tour, repairing and building cabins at YMCA camp, as well as spent many years volunteering at Bentleyville. When they are in Florida, they volunteer at their local library and hospital.
Marie Myung-Ok Lee
Marie Myung-Ok Lee is an acclaimed Korean-American writer and author of several novels including The Evening Hero (Simon & Schuster, 2022) and Somebody’s Daughter (Beacon Press, 2006). She was the first Fulbright Scholar to Korea in creative writing and is a current New York Foundation for the Arts fiction fellow. Marie has received many honors for her work, including an O. Henry honorable mention, the Best Book Award from the Friends of American Writers, and a Rhode Island State Council on the Arts fiction fellowship.
Her stories and essays have been published in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Slate, Salon, Guernica, and The Guardian, among others. Her work frequently engages with immigration, with the effects of partition on Koreans and the Korean diaspora, and the hardship her mother endured to escape her war-torn homeland for a better life in the US.
Lee graduated from Brown University and continued her time at Brown as a Writer in Residence before teaching at Columbia University. She has been a Yaddo and MacDowell Colony fellow and has served as a judge for the National Book Award and the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. In addition, Ms. Lee is a founder of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. She lives in New York City.