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  • NYS Writers Institute

2024 greetings from Paul Grondahl

Scenes from our 40th anniversary season in 2024. (Photo credit: Patrick Dodson/UAlbany)

Get ready to party like it’s 1844. Throughout 2024, we will celebrate the 180th anniversary of the founding of the University at Albany on May 7, 1844. As one of the nation’s preeminent literary organizations, we are proud of our role in the advancement of this great institution of higher education.

UAlbany has been the home and stalwart supporter of the NYS Writers Institute over the past 40 years as we have welcomed more than 2,500 of the world’s greatest writers to campus.

The first state-chartered institution of higher education, it was christened the New York State Normal School — an archaic term for the training of teachers. It began with four faculty members and 29 students in an abandoned railroad depot on State Street in downtown Albany. It was renamed the New York State College for Teachers in 1914 and the State University of New York at Albany in 1962. Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, graces its official seal.

Fast-forward to 2024 and UAlbany has grown to more than 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students across three campuses. It is one of the most diverse public research institutions in the country and has been recognized as a national leader in providing social and economic mobility for its students.

It is fitting, therefore, in this 180th anniversary year, that we highlight writers with strong connections to UAlbany. The list is extensive: former Writers Institute writing workshop teacher Elizabeth Benedict (Jan. 31); UAlbany faculty member Jennifer Burns and UAlbany alumna Jennifer Lemak with State Poet

Patricia Spears Jones (Feb. 15); UAlbany staff member Richard Mirabella (Feb. 29); UAlbany alumna Molly Guptill Manning (March 6); UAlbany alumna Alice Green (March 14); UAlbany emerita professor Lydia Davis and UAlbany faculty member Lynne Tillman (March 26); UAlbany faculty members Amina Henry and Shaun Patrick Tubbs (April 2); and UAlbany faculty member Kyra Gaunt and UAlbany alumnus Stephen Soucy at our Albany Film Festival on Saturday, April 6.

We mourn the passing of our dear friend and Writers Institute benefactor Grayce Burian, author, teacher, actor, director, and wife of the late UAlbany theatre professor and department chair Jarka Burian. Amazing Grayce, as we called her, died on November 16, 2023 at age 96. A celebration of Grayce's extraordinary life will be held 2 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at UAlbany. More details will be announced.

I close with a stanza from Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith (April 19), whose poetry feels at once timely and timeless, like these lines from her poem “Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?”

Time never stops, but does it end? And how many lives

Before take-off, before we find ourselves

Beyond ourselves, all glam-glow, all twinkle and gold?

Paul Grondahl

Opalka Endowed Director, NYS Writers Institute


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