THE COLBY AWARD recognizes a first book-length work of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry that has made a major contribution to the understanding of military history, intelligence operations, or international affairs.
The Colby Award is named for William E. Colby, a notable American intelligence officer and former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The Norwich University Military Writers’ Symposium was designed to expose students, faculty, alumni and the public to the works and views of authors, historians, journalists, and national figures. It aspires to educate, enlighten, and inspire.
The program was originally conceived by former Norwich president MG Russell Todd ’50, USA (Ret.) as a way to bring influential writers to the campus of Norwich University. In 1996, Norwich hosted a small, prestigious group of writers on campus for a two-day series of lectures and panel discussions. Among them was ambassador and former C.I.A. Director William E. Colby, prolific military fiction writer W.E.B. Griffin, military historian and biographer Carlo D’Este ’59, and Philip Caputo, Vietnam memoirist and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. The event was initially known as the Norwich University Military Writers’ Symposium.
William Colby died unexpectedly shortly after that first event, prompting the university to rename the experimental program the William E. Colby Writers’ Symposium in April 1997 to honor the Norwich honorary degree recipient. In 2019, to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the program during Norwich’s bicentennial year, the program reclaimed its original name. Now a program of the Peace and War Center, the symposium and the William E. Colby Award hold a unique place among Norwich’s most celebrated annual traditions.
Since 1996, the symposium has grown to the national prominence it enjoys today, hosting hundreds of military writers, historians, and biographers, and confronting difficult and important issues central to the public’s understanding. Once a single event, the program has evolved to year-round experiences to expand students’ experiential learning.
The symposium is the only program of its kind in existence at an American university. It has brought some of the most prominent military, intelligence, and international affairs writers and historians of our time to central Vermont and Norwich University.