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Donald W. Faulkner 1952-2018

Donald W. Faulkner, former director of the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany, died at his home in Schenectady of natural causes on April 10. He was 66 years old and had been in declining health.

He resigned from the Writers Institute in the summer of 2016 to pursue other creative projects after taking an extended medical leave. Faulkner, who was also a tenured English faculty member, joined the Writers Institute in 1995. He replaced Tom Smith, a UAlbany English professor who held the position for a decade before he died of a heart attack on September 26, 1994 at 63.

“We are thankful for Don’s long service to the Writers Institute and the University at Albany, we mourn his passing and extend our heartfelt condolences to his family,” said Writers Institute director Paul Grondahl, the third person to hold the post in its 35-year history. Writers Institute founder and executive director William Kennedy praised Faulkner’s development of deep connections with publishers, editors and the literary community.

Faulkner came to the Writers Institute from Yale University, where he directed the summer writing program. He was a senior lecturer at Yale and taught literature courses at UAlbany. He earned a master’s degree in philosophy at Yale, where his mentor was John Hersey, the late Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. Faulkner published two books of poetry, wrote book reviews and edited four collections of writing by literary critic Malcolm Cowley.

Obituary | Biography page from our archives

Donald W. Faulkner
Donald Faulkner, Photo by Mark Schmidt

Former Director of the New York State Writers Institute
Serving from 1995 to 2016

Donald W. Faulkner was the Director of the New York State Writers Institute, and Associate Professor, English Department at the University at Albany. He is a former Director of the University's Center for Arts and Humanities and holds a position in the University's Theater Department.

Director Donald Faulkner was featured on C-SPAN2 Book TV and C-SPAN3 American History TV’s special segment on Albany, NY

"We go far and wide, find the best writers that we can and bring them to Albany. . .(9:36)

Faulkner's teaching expertise included contemporary literature and creative writing. He taught for many years at Yale where he helped launch such writers as ZZ Packer, Claire Messud, Susan Choi, Peter Rock, John Hodgman, Debra Spark, Edward Norton, and Arthur Bradford, among many others. As a director of the Yale Summer Creative Writing Program he hired young writers Tom Perrotta, Kate Walbert, and Forrest Stone to teach and hone their craft.

Donald Faulkner in Italy

Faulkner has published two collections of poems, and has edited, as literary secretary, four books of writings by eminent literary critic Malcolm Cowley, which include The Portable Cowley, The Penguin 20th Century Classics edition of Exile's Return, and Malcolm Cowley on New England Writers and Writing. An authority on the Lost Generation and Beat Generation writers, he appears as a featured commentator in the two-hour A&E Biography/Crisman Films documentary, "The Lost Generation." He also appears as a featured commentator in Perry Miller Adato's "Paris: The Luminous Years."

Faulkner worked as a writer-in-residence at the Connecticut Hospice, an experience that provided the basis for a nonfiction book, "Something Rich and Strange." Twice recipient of the Connecticut Commission on the Arts Award for writing, Faulkner has written fiction, non-fiction, and poetry for publications as diverse as Vanity Fair and Sewanee Review.

Besides being the interviewer-of-record for over a thousand hours of Writers Institute Archive recordings of WI Visiting Writers, and the host of more than a hundred on-stage interviews, Faulkner was the director and executive producer of films made from the Archive materials.

Faulkner has received Fellowships and Awards from The Newberry Library, The Connecticut Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Danforth Foundation, and the Society for Values in Higher Education. He holds a BA in an interdisciplinary major, The Structure of Human Consciousness, with Honors in Philosophy, from Northwestern University, and an MA-MPhil from Yale University in Modern Studies.