If you're a screenwriter -- especially an aspiring screenwriter -- then the name "Nicholl" is (or surely should be) instantly familiar to you. The Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting are the ne plus ultra of screenwriting contests. Win a Nicholl, and you are launched, baybee. Hell, even an honorable finish in the Nicholl carries more weight and prestige than most contest wins will ever hope to warrant.
From the story:
After her husband's death in 1980, Gee Nicholl, knowing that Don had long spoken of helping new writers get started, provided funding first for grants for students in the screenwriting program at Stanford University and then for the Academy's Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Program.
In the 24 years since its inception, the Nicholl Fellowships has become one of the world's most prestigious awards for amateur writers. The program has given boosts to the careers of screenwriters such as Susannah Grant ("Erin Brockovich"), Andrew Marlowe ("Air Force One") and Mike Rich ("Finding Forrester") as well as to Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jeffrey Eugenides ("Middlesex").
-- Hollywood Reporter
Mrs. Nicholl was too ill to attend the awards dinner that incredible year when i was lucky enough to be among the ten finalists, so I never had a chance to shake her hand and tell her "on behalf of tens of thousands of dreamers whose names you will never know but whose hopes your generosity buoyed and sustained, thanks." The world could use more folks like her.
Full story here.