Author Kim Michele Richardson Receives Honorary Doctorate From EKU

Published on May 11, 2024

By Ethan Sirles

Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) recognized author Kim Michele Richardson for her distinguished service to arts and culture with an honorary Doctor of Humanities (L.H.D) degree at EKU’s spring commencement ceremony on Friday, May 10, 2024. 

A native-born Kentuckian, Richardson is a New York Times, Los Angeles Times and USA Today bestselling author and has written six pieces of historical fiction and a bestselling memoir. Her novel, “The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek,” has earned a 2020 PBS Readers Choice and 2019 LibraryReads Best Book, among other awards. 

“Kim has focused much of her research on eastern Kentucky, a region I proudly call home and from which our university bears its name,” said EKU President David McFaddin. “She tells the story of eastern Kentucky in a way that celebrates its history and cherishes its culture.”

Richardson spent more than a decade researching for “The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek,” focusing on librarians who would travel throughout Kentucky on horseback and mules. These librarians would bring books to impoverished and isolated communities in the state—a cause that Richardson is passionate about for the people living in her home state today.

In addition to her work as an author, Richardson is implementing a project to put Free Little Libraries in all 120 Kentucky county courthouses, increasing access to books for families and children across the Commonwealth. Already, Richardson’s library project has inspired the donation of nearly 500 books in 14 counties, a number she hopes continues to grow.

“Valued more than any award or prize, has been the witnessing of great acts of kindness inspired from my books—from the thousands of letters I’ve received from folks across the U.S. and abroad—letters that informed me that after reading my works they were inspired to start book mobiles during the height of the pandemic, and others who wrote they are now buying books for book deserts, and yet more who are donating regularly to food banks, and those who raise money for underserved libraries, and more,” said Richardson.

Richardson said she was especially honored to receive an honorary degree from EKU because, in addition to her love for the region, her husband, Joe Richardson, is an EKU alumnus.

McFaddin presented Kim Michele Richardson with the honorary degree during the 6 p.m. spring commencement ceremony for the College of Letters, Arts, & Social Sciences and College of Business. 

Noting the tragedies and hardships she faced as a child in a Kentucky orphanage and then as a homeless teenager, Richardson said, “When I finished ‘The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek,’ my only hope was that I planted seeds of kindness, courage and compassion in a turbulent world and lifted up and honored my Kentucky people.”

To the class of 2024, she said, “Embrace your own heritage, your journey and next chapters in life.”

Framed with the honorary diploma, the citation reads, “A product of the Commonwealth of Kentucky whose masterful storytelling captures the essence of her passion for the people of eastern Kentucky; an author and advocate whose stories resonate with readers, transcending geographic boundaries and instilling a sense of appreciation for the culture and heritage of the region; whom Eastern Kentucky University is honored to recognize.”