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Gregory Maguire, '76

Inspiring Courage and Imagination


UAlbany alumnus and best-selling author Gregory Maguire, '76, has a penchant for creating brave and audacious characters, not unlike Maguire himself.

"It took a lot of courage for me to take such a beloved story like 'The Wizard of Oz' and put my own imagination into it," said Maguire, whose book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, spawned the smash Broadway musical. "It was my first book for adults and I kept imagining how this book was going to be the next big thing."

Maguire's previous works included several children's novels, including the seven book series The Hamlet Chronicles.

During Maguire's undergraduate experience, UAlbany fostered an environment of creativity and innovation, inspiring him to follow his literary aspirations. He took a seminar in children's literature with Library Sciences professor Lillian Orsini, who later mentored his independent study in children's fiction writing. The seminar resulted in Maguire's first book, The Lightning Times, published soon after his graduation.

Today, Maguire's works are revisionist tales of classic children's stories, including Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and A Lion Among Men.

"What I found at UAlbany was the capacity for teachers to think a little bit beyond what the catalog said and to extend themselves in such a way as to make an education tailored for an individual," said Maguire. He credits his interaction with faculty as the inspiration to pursue a career in writing, particularly Maguire's commentaries on contemporary society in the guise of children's stories.

It also led to Maguire's work as a consultant in creative writing for children, which has taken him to speaking engagements around the globe. He is a founder and codirector of Children's Literature New England, Inc., a non-profit educational charity established in 1987. Thirty years after he graduated from UAlbany, Maguire has literally realized a world within reach, thanks in no small part to the encouragement he received as a student.

Still, he never imagined Wicked would become the basis of a world-wide theatrical phenomenon, receiving 10 Tony nominations after its opening in 2003. Nor could he have imagined that his own life story, as well as the books he has authored, would in turn come to inspire courage and imagination in generations of students and young adults.

Maguire was on campus recently to speak with students and lecture about his literary works and time at UAlbany.

Karen Torrejon, '10, majoring in chemistry and physics
UAlbany Students

During one of her first experiences in a research laboratory, University at Albany senior Karen Torrejon knew instantly that she was wanted to be a scientist.

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