Alumna awarded for 'Scarecrow' biography

May 05, 2014

Holly Van Leuven ’12, who is working on the first-ever biography of Wizard of Oz Scarecrow actor Ray Bolger, will receive the Hazel Rowley Prize for Best Proposal for a First Biography by the Biographers International Organization on May 17.

Van Leuven

Holly Van Leuven '12 (Courtesy Photo)

The prize provides recognition and funding to a first-time biographer. Van Leuven will receive $2,000, a careful reading from at least one established literary agent, and a year’s membership in BIO.

“With this award, I am so honored and grateful and inspired to see my project through,” Van Leuven said.

Van Leuven interviewed members of Bolger’s family and uncovered documents containing information about Bolger, a Boston native, which had been untouched for nearly two decades while conducting research in a special collections library at the University of California, Los Angeles. She said she was inspired to begin the biography as a result of a class assignment from Dan Weaver, senior publisher and editor-in-residence of the Writing, Literature and Publishing Department.


Ray Bolger, who died in 1987, played Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. Bolger was a native of Boston's Dorchester neighborhood.

“He saw the potential in this from the very beginning,” Van Leuven said. “He always has smart advice. [He is a] once-in-a-lifetime mentor.”

Van Leuven’s unpublished biography on Bolger, her BFA thesis project, won Emerson’s 2013 Senior Writing Award for High Distinction in Non-Fiction. She was also co-valedictorian of the Class of 2013.

Van Leuven, who works for Harvard Education Publishing Group, will receive her award at the Compleat Biographer Conference in Boston.