Gifts at Work

By Mary Fiess

Photos by Mark Schmidt

A Wickedly Wonderful Gift


s Gregory Maguire tells it, he almost didn’t graduate from the University at Albany. But the problem – namely, his many independent-study courses – is also one of the keys to his later success.

Through independent studies, UAlbany “let me spread my wings and write what I wanted and gave me credit. They made a good bet on me,” said Maguire, the best-selling author of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, which spawned the smash Broadway musical Wicked.

Maguire spoke about his student days when he visited campus in November 2012 to announce he was donating his papers to the University Libraries.

His personal and professional papers, manuscripts, documents, diaries and memorabilia, a collection spanning more than 50 years to date, will be stored in the M.E. Grenander Department of
Special Collections & Archives. This collection joins the papers of Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Kennedy; Joseph Persico, B.A.’52; and Marcia Brown, B.A.’40.

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Gregory Maguire displays the Wicked manuscript, part of the collection he donated to UAlbany last fall.

In addition, Maguire donated the collected papers of his father, celebrated Times Union columnist John Maguire, and a collection of poetry by his stepmother, Marie McAuliff Maguire.

“Gregory Maguire has made an indelible mark on American literature,” said UAlbany Provost Susan Phillips. “We consider it an enormous honor that UAlbany will now preserve and safeguard his papers for the use of students, scholars and the community at large.”

The collection includes such items as the spiral-bound notebook containing Maguire’s handwritten first draft, dated Feb. 17, 1992, of the first chapters of Wicked.

“There aren’t a lot of cross-outs. I tended to write fairly cleanly,” Maguire noted as he displayed the notebook. He completed Wicked in 1993; it was published in 1995.

To date, the novel has sold more than five million copies. The musical has been Broadway’s No. 1 hit for an unprecedented eight consecutive years and has won 35 major awards, including the Grammy and three Tonys. There are currently seven productions worldwide.

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Children's books from the collection

While most famous for Wicked, Maguire is also the author of 30 other books, including the adult novel Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, the children’s novels What-The-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy and Leaping Beauty and Other Animal Fairy Tales, and The Hamlet Chronicles series.

Maguire grew up in Albany in an Irish-Catholic family in which five of seven children became writers. “Our family was a literary ecosystem, in a sense,” he said. He earned his bachelor’s degree in English and studio art from UAlbany in May 1976, although there was a bit of a hitch.

“About a week after my graduation, I got a call from the registrar’s office, saying that my degree was invalid because I had taken too many independent studies,” Maguire recounted.

“I was, however, an early archivist, so I was able to take from my files all the signed permission forms from my professors. I was able to persuade the University, with the backing of the Board of Regents, that my degree was valid.”