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News Release

UAlbany Honors State Writers Institute with Semester Dedicated to Literary Arts
Institute's 20th Anniversary Recalls its Goal, to "celebrate literature and to enhance the role of writers"

Contact: Karl Luntta (518) 437-4980

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 5, 2003) -- The University at Albany will sponsor "The Writing Semester," an arts program featuring more than 50 cultural events, in observance of the 20th anniversary of the New York State Writers Institute. The semester, co-sponsored by the Institute and the College of Arts and Sciences, will include visits by humorist Dave Barry and columnist Ellen Goodman, a dramatic adaptation of Richard Russo’s novel Mohawk, and the designation of the state author and state poet.

"This is an unprecedented celebration of the literary arts organized and offered to honor the 20th anniversary of the founding of the New York State Writers Institute," said Joan Wick-Pelletier, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "With The Writing Semester, we not only celebrate the written word, but we also pay tribute to the tremendous contribution that the Institute has made to the educational resources and cultural life at the University at Albany and in the surrounding community."

"We are pleased that the College of Arts and Sciences has chosen the written word to be the theme of a semester's worth of programming," said Institute founder and Executive Director William Kennedy. "Over the course of 20 years, we have hosted over 600 artists, among them six Nobel Prize winners and 50 Pulitzer Prize winners, and have screened more than 500 films. And as long as artists continue to write and be heard, we will continue to showcase the very best that the literary arts have to offer."

The Writers Institute, housed at the New Library on UAlbany’s uptown campus, was founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist William Kennedy with part of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, funds that were matched by the University at Albany. In 1984, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo signed legislation creating the Institute, giving it a mandate to provide “a milieu for established and aspiring writers to work together to increase the freedom of the artistic imagination,” and “to encourage the development of writing skills at all levels of education throughout the state.”

The Writers Institute has grown to become one of the nation's foremost sites for showcasing the written word. Numerous programs provide a broad educational base for students of writing, access to living authors for serious readers of literature, enthusiastic audiences for visiting writers, and important cultural initiatives for the general public. “As the Institute continues to grow,” said Donald Faulkner, its director since 1995, “our central aim is to celebrate literature and to enhance the role of writers as a community within the larger community.”

The Writing Semester follows recent theme semesters on Albany Heritage and technology and the arts and humanities. The theme of writing, said Wick-Pelletier, “also meshes well with a new college initiative to create a major in journalism, since several of the scheduled events feature presentations and panel discussions by well-known journalists. We already have a large and ever-increasing number of students who come to the University to take courses in creative and journalistic writing. The Writing Semester is sure to spur them on."

The Writing Semester kicks off Jan. 23 with a screening of "The Color of Money," the 1986 film directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Tom Cruise and Academy Award-winner Paul Newman. The screening is followed on Jan. 27 with a seminar and reading by novelist Richard Price, who wrote the movie's screenplay, as well as seven novels, including Samaritan, his most recent, and Freedomland and Clockers.

The semester's activities conclude May 4 with a reading by Barry, one of America's most popular humor writers, whose satirical observations on daily life in middle-class America earned him the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Barry's Miami Herald-based column is syndicated in more than 150 newspapers nationwide, including several in the Capital Region.

Other Writing Semester events include:

  • A performance by the Musicians of Ma'alwyck, with readings by UAlbany Professor Leonard A. Slade Jr., chair of UAlbany's Department of Africana Studies, in honor of Black History Month; Feb. 5.

  • A panel discussion: "Journalism: The State of the Art," featuring journalists Jack Hitt, Marion Roach and Gary Taubes; Feb. 19.

  • The State Author and State Poet Award Ceremony and Reading; March 4.

  • A reading by Iris Chang, acclaimed author of the best-selling nonfiction book "The Rape of Nanking" and her newest book, "The Chinese in America"; April 14.

  • A screening of the 1923 silent film "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" with live piano accompaniment; April 23.

  • A reading by Haitian -American writer Edwidge Danticat, author of the collection of short fiction Krik? Krak! which was nominated for a National Book Award, and other works; April 26.

For a full schedule of events, contact or visit, or call (518) 442-5620. All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.

The University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages 17,000 diverse students in nine degree-granting schools and colleges. The University has launched a $500 million fundraising campaign, the most ambitious in its history, with the goal of placing it among the nation's top 30 public research universities by the end of the decade. For more information about this internationally ranked institution, visit For UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts, visit