Acclaimed Alumni Maguire, Guggenheim Help Secure NYSWI's Future
At left, authors Gregory Maguire and Doris Kearns Goodwin sign books at the inaugural Albany Book Fest. At right, screenwriter Marc Guggenheim chats with students on a previous visit to campus.
ALBANY, N.Y. (Jan. 22, 2019) – Two renowned University at Albany alumni, a novelist and screenwriter/producer, have ensured that the campus and local communities will continue to hear from the world’s most acclaimed writers and view history’s most important films.
Gregory Maguire ’76, author of the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, and Marc Guggenheim ’92, co-creator of the TV series Arrow and screenwriter for the movie Green Lantern, have made significant six-figure gifts to the New York State Writers Institute (NYSWI), a literary gem based at UAlbany.
“The Writers Institute provides a sort of agora, or ancient Greek market square, for the sharing of ideas and ideals,” said Maguire, whose novel inspired Wicked, the 6th longest running show in Broadway history.
Maguire established The Maguire Family Endowment at NYSWI to provide financial support for the Institute to host authors throughout the year. The $500,000 endowment is in honor of his family and, in particular, his parents John Maguire, Helen Gregory Maguire and Marie McAuliff Maguire.
“I never knew my birth mother Helen except through legend because she died when I was born,” Maguire said. “However, my father and my second mother (Marie) talked about her so winningly – she was my second mother’s best friend from childhood – that I know her interest in literature was as rich as theirs.”
Maguire says there is great value in the power of public higher education, and in making that education accessible to a part of the population that was previously unable to avail themselves of it.
An English and Studio Art double major at UAlbany, Maguire was influenced by Professor Lillian Orsini, a librarian who taught a graduate level course, the only one on campus on children’s literature at the time.
“She let me take the course as a sophomore,” he said. “I already possessed a belief in the value of good literature for children. Her generosity of spirit in letting me in was nonpareil in my experience.”
While studying at UAlbany, Maguire said he “got on with the job of teaching myself to write. The University allowed me to rev my motor up to the number of RPMs I could tolerate, which allowed me to move quickly toward my goal.” He wrote his first novel as an independent study during his senior year—it was published two years later.
Maguire lent his presence to the Institute’s inaugural Albany Book Fest this past fall, which drew more than 5,000 participants. With the security of his endowment in place, the event is expected to grow even more in 2019.
Guggenheim, a screenwriter, comic book writer and novelist, pledged $100,000 to the existing NYSWI Classic Film Series Endowment to ensure it continues to provide free cinematic events and film commentary for the UAlbany campus and community.
In addition to co-creating Arrow and serving as screenwriter for Green Lantern, Guggenheim is executive producer of Guillermo del Toro’s Netflix animated series Trollhunters and the spinoff series, 3Below.
Guggenheim said he made his gift to sustain the Classic Film Series because cinematic history is important to him.
“Having not gone to film school myself, I’m a big believer that classic films are the best teacher for people interested in becoming filmmakers,” he said. “It’s important that these works not fade into obscurity and that people continue to have easy – which often means ‘free’ – access to them. This is important even to people who aren’t interested in pursuing cinema as a profession – because that can change with exposure to a single movie. All it takes is one film to ignite your imagination.”
Guggenheim maintains, “You don’t get as much out of watching something on your iPad as you do when viewing it with a real audience. And that’s coming from someone who watches a lot of television and movies on his iPad.”
Guggenheim’s love of writing was inspired by Rosemary Hennessy, his thesis advisor in the English Honors Program.
He has been back to campus several times over the last few years, and enjoys talking with current students.
“It’s wonderful and re-energizing,” he said. “I love their curiosity and passion. They’re growing up at such an interesting time, particularly in terms of politics and popular culture. It’s inspiring to see how many of them want to become writers.”
“The New York State Writers Institute is a jewel of this University,” said Vice President for Advancement Fardin Sanai, “so these gifts would be notable regardless of who the donors were. What makes them even more meaningful is that two of UAlbany’s foremost creative minds have made certain that future generations will benefit from exposure to great writing and great films, and to the creative process that produced them.”
NYSWI Director Paul Grondahl said, “We are deeply grateful for these transformative gifts from two brilliant writers and deeply committed University at Albany alumni, Gregory Maguire and Marc Guggenheim. Both have been past guests of the Writers Institute and they shared insights into their creative imaginations with our students, faculty, alumni and community members. Now, with these major gifts, they are helping to ensure that those meaningful conversations with writers and filmmakers from around the world will continue for many years to come. Their generosity will allow us to offer the very best literary and classic film programming to be found anywhere, free and open to the public. Thank you, Gregory and Marc. You’re part of the Writers Institute family now.”
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