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The Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Awards
John Asbury Zeigler, Jr.
2013 Lifetime Achievement Award
Everyone who meets John Zeigler comes away amazed by this 101-year-old. A true renaissance man, Zeigler is an acclaimed author, poet, teacher and a true lover of the arts. The author of two books of poetry, Zeigler’s poems have also been published in a variety of literary journals and magazines, including Harper’s Bazaar, The Lyric, The New York Times, and the yearbooks of the Poetry Society of S.C. He is also beloved by his many former customers of the Book Basement, his book store that served the Charleston community for 20 years. The bookstore was housed on the ground floor of a home that had been in Zeigler’s family for generations and was for decades a place of mentoring and a haven for emerging writers.
Though a graduate of The Citadel, Zeigler is considered part of the College of Charleston family, particularly for his support of the College's School of the Arts. His philanthropy has supported the school and its students as he has endowed numerous scholarships and awards to assist young performing and creative artists.
His support of many students continues throughout graduate school and their professional careers, and he is deeply committed to supporting emerging artists with his time, wisdom money, many of whom have gone on to national and international success. The impact of Zeigler’s gifts goes far beyond the immediate support that funds provide. Students who benefited from Zeigler’s gifts have become accomplished artists, musicians and writers, and some have launched successful arts-based businesses. Many of those former students now “pay it forward,” extending Zeigler’s reach into future generations.
In 2010, the College of Charleston Alumni Association honored Zeigler with the Alumni Award of Honor, the only award bestowed on non-graduates, noting that "He loves to see young artists succeed and follow their dreams. He invests in their future and asks nothing in return but the opportunity to watch them blossom." In 2011 the College presented him with an honorary doctorate. The citation that accompanied the degree referred to Zeigler’s "everlasting commitment to generations of writers, musicians and artists…" and noted that his "generosity has enabled the creation of art that is enjoyed the world over."
Beyond the school, he has given of his time, talents and resources to cultural organizations such as the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the Charleston Academy of Music, Spoleto Festival USA, the S.C. State Museum and others. Zeigler’s vision has contributed immensely to the decades-long success of the Poetry Society of South Carolina, now in its 92nd year. In 2011 Governor Haley recognized the impact that Zeigler has had in both Charleston and South Carolina by awarding him the Order of the Silver Crescent. The letter that accompanied the award noted that his “countless contributions to our citizens will have a lasting impact on South Carolina for many years to come.”
John Zeigler’s desire is to make South Carolina a better place by helping young people and the arts thrive. As a philanthropist, mentor, supporter and artist, he has worked in his own way to make that desire a reality. His philosophy is that each of us can – and should – make a difference in the lives of others.