CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The Vandalia Award, West Virginia’s highest folklife honor, will be presented to Ken Sullivan of Charleston, Kanawha County, on Friday, May 22, at the 39th annual Vandalia Gathering. Sullivan will receive the award during a 7 p.m. ceremony and concert in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater in the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex, Charleston.

Sullivan has been the executive director of the West Virginia Humanities Council since 1997. While there, he pitched his dream project, the publication of a West Virginia encyclopedia, to the board of directors, which endorsed it. The project took nearly a decade to complete and resulted in a 927-page book that has earned accolades. The publication now has an award-winning online version available at

Another project Sullivan spearheaded was the restoration of the 1836 MacFarland-Hubbard House. He signed papers for the property in 1999, and the building became the Humanities Council’s headquarters in 2000.

Prior to the Humanities Council, Sullivan worked as editor of Goldenseal, the magazine of West Virginia traditional life, serving concurrently as folklife director for the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. He founded the West Virginia State Liars Contest, held annually during the Vandalia Gathering at the Culture Center and State Capitol grounds, and has hosted the popular event for more than 30 years.

Sullivan is a native of the Virginia mountains, with Appalachian roots reaching back more than 200 years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia, a master’s degree from the University of Rochester and a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, all in the field of American history. He moved to West Virginia in 1976.

The Vandalia Award is presented annually in a ceremony in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater at the Culture Center. The individuals who receive the award embody the spirit of the state’s folk heritage and are recognized for their lifetime contributions to West Virginia and its traditional culture.

For more information about the Vandalia Gathering and the Vandalia Award, contact Caryn Gresham, deputy commissioner for the division, at (304) 558-0220.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the division’s programs, events and sites, visit The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

Media Note: A photograph of Ken Sullivan is attached.