Issue 14 · Spring 2009
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Writing Programs Define the Wesleyan Experience
By Michael S. Roth
Recently, John Shapiro ’74 and Shonni Silverberg ’76, MD, of New York City made a gift of $3.5 million to transform Wesleyan’s creative writing programs and endow the Writing Center. Their gift, which endows a faculty position to begin in fall ’09, is the latest high-profile expression of support for Wesleyan’s extraordinary Writing Programs.
April 1, Wesleyan welcomed Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz to campus as the English Department 2009’s Millet Writing Fellow. He spoke to a characteristically enthusiastic audience in Memorial Chapel and read several selections of his work, which included the short story collection Drown and his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, for which he won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Díaz also has published short stories in The New Yorker, African Voices, The Best American Short Stories, and The O. Henry Prize Stories 2009. He is the fiction editor at the Boston Review and The Rudge and the Nancy Allen Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
On April 17, Wesleyan also hosted Edward P. Jones H’05. Widely regarded as one of the nation’s most distinguished contemporary fiction writers, Jones H’05 delivered the 2009 Annie Sonnenblick Lecture at Wesleyan. He won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the Lannan Literary Award for his novel The Known World, an epic story examining the complexities of slavery. His previous book, Lost in the City, a collection of short stories, received the PEN/ Hemingway Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award and his most recent collection, All Aunt Hagar’s Children, is a best seller.
Other writers of color in the Distinguished Writer Series affirm Wesleyan’s place in promoting the underrepresented writers and writing in the increasingly competitive field of letters. Authors Gayle Pemberton, Michael Ondaatje, and poets such as M. NourbeSe Philip have all spoken on campus, shared their craft and their voices, and enriched the Writing Programs for students of color. I was honored that Walter Mosley, novelist and short fiction master, consented to be the Dwight L. Greene lecturer on the occasion of my inauguration as president at Wesleyan. Who followed at the next Greene Symposium? Juan Williams, senior correspondent for NPR’s Morning Edition, and author of six books known for their bold, solution-based look at African American life.
Wesleyan nurtures great writers. From biographers to poets, from experimental authors to those reaching out to a mass public, we have educated writers who have made a difference in a wide variety of genres. I appreciate the critical role that our Alumni of Color play in influencing the selection of visiting lecturers, and enriching the Wesleyan Writing Programs for all students.
Please take some time to share with your fellow alumni what you’ve been up to recently! Send us commentary, photos and/or articles of your latest happenings. Please forward your submissions to Sandy Tello ’06, 77 Pearl Street, Middletown, CT 06459 or email@example.com.