Casey and Hilary Gauntt with the 2019 recipients of the Jimmy Gauntt Memorial Award L to R Dimitris Tzoytzoyrakos, Christina Similien, Isabella Preisz, Zharia O’Neal, Catalina Acebal-Acevedo and Francisco Juaregui
[Photo by: Steve Cohn © 2019]


The annual Jimmy Gauntt Memorial Award dinner took place on Tuesday April 30 at the wonderful Ostrich Farm restaurant in Los Angeles.   The Award, known as simply “the Jimmy”  is bestowed by the USC Department of English upon outstanding graduating seniors who have excelled in the study of English and Narrative Studies.  In addition to the amazing Jimmy recipients, of which there is now a total of 59, 25 faculty members, department staff, special guests and Jimmy’s family attended.

This year was particularly special because it was the 10th year the Jimmy has been awarded and celebrated.   To commemorate this milestone, Jimmy’s mother, Hilary, gave this wonderfully appropriate toast.


There’s a wonderful book that had a permanent place on last year’s best sellers list: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Tolles. It’s about a Russian Count, Alexander Rostov, who is sentenced by the Bolsheviks in 1922 to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. At the time I was reading it, we were facing the 10-year anniversary of the day Jimmy died, and at a loss of how to mark the day.

Amor Tolles presented us with a solution as he described Count Rostov’s family tradition of honoring their ancestors. The friends and relatives would gather at 5 o’clock in the great hall at the country estate on the tenth anniversary of the family member’s death and toast their memory with a glass of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

So that’s what we did on August 9th last year at the beach in Del Mar, and we thought it would be a meaningful way to celebrate all of you on this 10th year of this award. 

Before we raise our glasses and toast to your achievement, I’d like to read a line from the book that seems appropriate for the group that’s gathered in this room; about to graduate and step out into your future.

 ‘He has said that our lives are steered by uncertainties, many of which are disruptive and even daunting; but that if we persevere and remain generous of heart, we may be granted a moment of supreme lucidity – a moment in which all that has happened to us suddenly comes into focus as a necessary course of events, even as we find ourselves on the threshold of a bold new life that we had been meant to lead all along.’

The Chateauneuf-du-Pape was poured, the glasses raised and the assembled shouted in unison:


A beautiful moment, indeed.


Hilary wrote to Mr. Tolles to express her gratitude for leading us to the perfect way to celebrate Jimmy’s 10th angel date.   One would think this fellow is so busy and famous he’ll never even see her letter.  And you would be wrong!   Check out the beautiful exchange of letters between Hilary and Amor Tolles.    THE MOSCOW LETTERS

Amor Tolles in Moscow



Jimmy and Hilary in Christchurch 2005

The Jimmy Award founder, Professor David Roman, and the 2019 Jimmies
[Photo by: Steve Cohn © 2019]

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Author Bios

Write Me Something Beautiful Authors - Casey and Jimmy Gauntt

Casey Gauntt

is a retired attorney and former senior executive of a major San Diego real estate company. He lives in Solana Beach, California, with his wife, Hilary. Casey grew up in Itasca, Illinois, graduated Lake Park High School in 1968, and received B.S., JD and MBA degrees from the University of Southern California.

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Jimmy Gauntt

was born and raised in Solana Beach and graduated from Torrey Pines High School in 2002.   A prestigious Trustee Scholar at the University of Southern California, he majored in English and Spanish. He authored six plays, five screenplays, and a multitude of poems and short stories. Beginning in 2010, the USC English Department annually bestows the Jimmy Gauntt Memorial Award—aka “The Jimmy”—to the top graduates in English.  Jimmy passed over to the other side in 2008 at age 24.

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