May Murphy Thibaudeau Writing Awards
The May Murphy Thibaudeau Writing Awards give students the opportunity to express themselves through original poetry and short stories. First held in 2001, this annual writing contest celebrates the legacy of local writer May Murphy Thibaudeau while encouraging students to search their own minds and hearts for sentiments to share through their writing.
May Murphy Thibaudeau lived an admirable, incredibly full life for ninety-six years. Her enthusiasm for life was obvious as she encouraged students to make writing a pattern in their lives. She explained her purpose for writing: “Experiences never expressed in poem, story or the like become vague and end in oblivion.”
Thibaudeau overcame great adversity to become a successful author. She was raised by her grandparents after her mother died before her second birthday. She stayed with her aunt who worked as a housekeeper for Milwaukee businessman Frederick Layton. There, she found the motivation to obtain an education and explore the world. After attending Milwaukee State Teachers College, now UW-Milwaukee, she taught in one-room schools. After her marriage to Ray Thibaudeau, she came to South Milwaukee. In her book, A Little Something of My Days, she shared her feelings about her life with her husband and children.
As an accomplished writer, she was honored at state and local levels. Into her 90s, she inspired fellow members of Writer’s Ink in Cudahy. Her books, available at local libraries, capture memories of the past. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “With simple words and insightful prose, May Murphy Thibaudeau saved the stories of many lives, including her own, from oblivion.”
May Murphy Thibaudeau’s spirit is with her family as they gather each year with writers and their parents for the annual May Murphy Thibaudeau Writing Awards luncheon and ceremony. Her daughter, the late Clairese Huennekens, and son-in-law Gregg (DB ’65), generously sponsor this writing contest in her honor and provide our delightful awards luncheon.