Grinnell, Iowa – Sister Helen Prejean—the Roman Catholic nun whose efforts to abolish the death penalty inspired the Oscar-winning film Dead Man Walking—will present the keynote speech at the Grinnell Prize awards ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 4:15 p.m. in Herrick Chapel at Grinnell College.

The event will feature the presentation of Grinnell Prize medals to three young people who are innovators in social justice. This year’s Grinnell Prize recipients will be announced Monday, Oct. 28. For more information, go to

The Nov. 5 awards ceremony—and a book signing at Macy House immediately following the ceremony—are open to the public at no charge. No tickets are required.

About Sister Helen Prejean

For three decades, Sister Helen Prejean has been a leading voice against the death penalty, shaping the conversation nationally, internationally and within the Catholic Church.

A member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, Prejean spent her first years with the Sisters teaching religion to junior high school students. Realizing that being on the side of poor people is an essential part of the Gospel, she moved into the St. Thomas Housing Project in New Orleans and worked at New Orleans’ Hope House from 1984 to 1986.

During that time, Prejean was asked to correspond with a death row inmate, Patrick Sonnier, at Angola, the state penitentiary of Louisiana. Prejean agreed and became Sonnier’s spiritual adviser. After witnessing his execution, she wrote Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. A New York Times Best Seller for 31 weeks, the book inspired the 1996 movie of the same name, directed by Tim Robbins and starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon. Dead Man Walking also was the basis for an opera and a play for high schools and colleges.

Since 1984, Prejean has divided her time between educating citizens about the death penalty and counseling individual death row prisoners. Prejean is also the author of The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, and presently is at work on River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey.

About the Grinnell Prize

The Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize (also known as the Grinnell Prize) honors individuals under the age of 40 who have demonstrated leadership in their fields and who show creativity, commitment and extraordinary accomplishment in effecting positive social change. Each prize carries an award of $100,000, half to each winning individual (or individuals) and half to an organization committed to the winner’s area of social justice. Nominations for the 2014 Grinnell Prize are being accepted through November 8. For more information, go to

About Grinnell College

Since its founding in 1846, Grinnell has become one of the nation's premier liberal arts colleges, enrolling 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries. Grinnell's rigorous academic program emphasizes excellence in education for students in the liberal arts; the college offers the B.A. degree in a range of departments across the humanities, arts and sciences. Grinnell has a strong tradition of social responsibility and action, and self-governance and personal responsibility are key components of campus life. More information about Grinnell College is available at


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