Author Jesse Washington Discusses the Life of Georgetown Hoyas Men’s Basketball Coach John Thompson

ohn Thompson was the head basketball coach at Georgetown University from 1972 to 1999, where he won the NCAA championship in 1984. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999. He graduated from Providence College and held a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from the University of the District of Columbia.

John Thompson was the head basketball coach at Georgetown University from 1972 to 1999, where he won the NCAA championship in 1984. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999. He graduated from Providence College and held a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from the University of the District of Columbia.

It’s day one of the annual Black Student-Athlete Summit hosted by UT’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement! Earlier today, Leonard Moore, the George Littlefield Professor of American History and former vice president of diversity and community engagement, chatted with two NCAA athletics experts to learn more about the life of Georgetown University’s legendary coach John Thompson.

Here, we bring you some highlights from Moore’s conversation with Jesse Washington, senior writer of ESPN’s The Undefeated and co-author of the newly published autobiography I Came As a Shadow; and Michael Jackson, former NBA player and point guard for Georgetown University’s men’s basketball team.

UT Black Student Athlete Summit speakers featured in Zoom frame

Leonard Moore, Jesse Washington and Michael Jackson speaking at a Black Student-Athlete session titled “Respect the Architect: The Life of John Thompson.”

Moore: How did you get the opportunity to work with Coach Thompson on this book?

Washington: John had some folks helping him put the project together. One thing coach always said, “It’s not who you know; it’s who you know who does know.” So coach found people around him with expertise. My name was put in the hat, I had an audition and I passed.

Moore: Would you say Coach Thompson was bridge between the Black Power era and Black Lives Matter, particularly when it comes to talking about athlete activism?

Jackson: I would argue yes, he was a bridge that connected the two generations, especially when you think of all the things that he did, what he stood for and how he challenged us as players. He always asked us to challenge the status quo, and I’ve taken that to heart in everything I do.

Moore: Jesse, did he challenge you when you first met him?

Washington: Absolutely, he asked some really tough questions. He looked me in my face—and he had a really penetrating glare—and he said, ‘You’ve never written a book like this before. What makes you think you can do this one?’ …Coach liked the underdog. He liked to find players in the nooks and crannies, and I think he felt that way about me.

Jackson: The job that Jesse did to win over coach’s confidence is short of amazing. I haven’t met someone who could do that in such a short period of time, and the job that he did with the book is phenomenal.

Moore: Michael, what was it like playing point guard for him, and what were practices like?

Jackson: We could spend half a day on this question, but I’ll try to keep it short. The best part of going to practices were the talks we would have. When we were going to practices, we were expected to know current events, what was going on in the world…He was always teaching and wanted us to understand that we needed to know more than just basketball, but we still had a job to do on the court.

Moore: In the book, you mentioned that Coach Thompson wanted his players to present themselves well. In the millennial generation, they call that the “politics of Black respectability.” What do you think John was trying to do?

Washington: You have to realize the era we were in. Coach Thompson didn’t want to send a message primarily to white people; Coach Thompson wanted to send the message to us… He was challenging assumptions about students on his team through psychological and subliminal methods.

Another one of his big sayings was, “You give your best interviews when you’re not being interviewed.”…It was about opportunity. It was about self-image and Black enrichment. It had nothing to do with appeasing white people because coach wasn’t about that. He was about sending messages to his people and Black America. That’s why he said his team always traveled in coats and ties…because it made a statement that Georgetown has a higher standard.

Jackson: We had a team rule any time we were traveling on a plane or to get to a game, we had to wear a coat and tie….If we were in a hotel lobby, we had to wear a collared shirt or a polo shirt—always. He also made sure we had a legitimate job every summer. I worked for my Congressmen, and a lot of players worked on the hill or for a law firm. You couldn’t just work at an ice cream shop, for example. You were still expected to work hard on different parts of the game that needed to be worked on during the summer, but you also had to work at a legitimate job so you could prepare for life when you graduate.

Moore: Let’s talk about Prop 42 for a minute.  Jesse, would you mind telling student athletes about Prop 42 and what that whole controversy is all about?

Washington: In the late 1980s, the NCAA passed a rule that said if you have below a 700 on your SAT, you can’t get any sort of scholarship. Before then, they could bring you to school and give you a scholarship. You would not be eligible to play during your freshman year; they would give you the remediation that was necessary and then you could continue your freshman year…It’s important to note that John Thompson—one of the brilliant intellects we’ve seen come across American life in the past century—probably did not get a 700 on his SATs. But he got a college scholarship and he did fine. He passed the same classes as everybody else…Coach Thompson recognized this ruling unfairly discriminated against primarily Black kids because they come from educational backgrounds that don’t have the resources that people with more money have. It’s not a question about intellect; it’s about opportunity, because when you look at the SAT, you see the biggest thing that predicts your score is your household income.

The NCAA went about passing this rule called Proposition 42 in a sneaky way. They did it in the dead of night. And when it passed, Coach Thompson said, “I have to do something about this. I’m going to boycott a game.” Very strategically he let the media know what he was doing and why.

Moore: There is a fine line between opportunity and exploitation. How did Coach Thompson model how not to exploit the athlete?

Jackson: All I’m going to say is 97.

Ninety-seven percent of athletes who attended Georgetown graduated. Those who didn’t have the academic wherewithal, the grades, the SAT scores, graduated…We had a structure in place and a coach who cared. During our freshman year, we had to talk to Mary Fenlon, our academic advisor, every single night. There were things in place so he could monitor whether we were doing well enough in school—not just to play but to graduate. That’s the only thing he promised me. He said, “If you stay here four years, you will graduate.”

Washington: Mary Fenlon was probably the first dedicated academic advisor for one team in NCAA history….The NCAA now has a much more robust support system for universities around the country. He made it known that you can’t exploit these kids. You have to educate them, and this is how you do it.

More about the Black Student-Athlete Summit

Every January, the DDCE’s Heman Sweatt Center for Black Males hosts the Black Student-Athlete Summit at the UT Austin campus. Attendees include professional athletes, athletic directors, coaches, professors and mental health professionals—all of whom play an integral role in the success of Black student-athletes. This year’s summit, themed  “Woke! Now What?” explores a range of issues that are uniquely faced by Black student-athletes during these challenging times.


Q&A: ‘The Sword and the Shield’ author shares how Malcolm X and MLK had more in common than is often believed

image of author and book coverThe metaphorical meaning behind the title of Peniel Joseph’s new book “The Sword and the Shield” (Basic Books, 2020) may seem obvious to anyone with a basic understanding of the civil rights movement: The shield represents Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent quest for radical citizenship, and the sword represents Malcolm X’s bold pursuit for Black dignity by any means necessary.

image of logo

This book has been selected for this fall’s UT Reads campaign! You can read more about it on the Human Resources website.

Yet a deeper look into the personal and political journeys of these civil rights icons shows us a different side of the story. We caught up with Joseph, the Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, during his book tour to learn more about the contrasting and, at times, overlapping political ideologies of Malcolm X and King—and how they both brought the sword and the shield to the fight for Black freedom and equality.

Why is it so important to look back at this history to understand what we’re seeing out in the streets?
It’s vitally important because Malcolm X and Dr. King were active in America’s second reconstruction. Now I think we’re entering the third reconstruction, and we need to have an understanding of how we got to this point. The title of this book is a metaphor for Malcolm X being the political sword and Dr. King being the political shield. But really, they’re both; they want to defend lives, and they’re willing to courageously speak truth to power no matter the consequences. Looking back at this point in history helps us reimagine democracy today to push for racial justice.

Did you come across anything new or surprising in your research?

I didn’t know the extent of Malcolm X’s support for the 1964 Civil Rights Act until I further looked into his visit to the U.S. Senate, when he and Dr. King had their first and only meeting during a filibuster. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Penn Warren later interviewed Malcolm X for his book “Who Speaks for the Negro?” and asked him what he thought of Dr. King. Malcolm told him they shared the same goals; they had different methods, but they both wanted human dignity.

I also didn’t know, until doing this research, that Malcolm X actually sat in on a speech that Dr. King gave in Harlem on Dec. 17, 1964, and later praised that speech to his own group. A couple months later, he tried to visit Dr. King in jail during the voting rights protests in Selma. He wasn’t allowed to visit, but he did speak with Coretta Scott King after delivering a speech to let her know that he wanted to help the voting rights act succeed. So there really was much more convergence with them in terms of dignity and human rights.

How, in your opinion, can Black Lives Matter advocates see themselves in both Malcolm X and King?

Malcolm X and Dr. King both faced police brutality and wanted a transformation of the criminal justice system. Malcolm X was in talks with the New York Police Department to stop racially profiling and to stop the no-knock and stop-and-frisk policies. Dr. King fought for this, too, in Harlem and Los Angeles. They didn’t succeed, so you have this whole other generation over 50 years later saying they don’t want to live like this. They don’t want to have this kind of punishment and criminalization at the expense of tens of millions of people.

Dr. King said in his final speech, “The greatness of America is the right to protest for right.” That makes us the country that we are—freedom of speech, freedom of expression and the idea that when there’s a grand mistake, we can correct it collectively.

What would you like your readers to take away from this book?

I want people to better explain the movement and to help others realize we’ve been here before. We’ve had opportunities in the past and movements of real progress, but then we get fatigued. There have been movements of urban rebellions, civil disturbances and race riots, but instead of finding the root origins of these problems, we went in the other direction of mass incarceration and demonization. We chose law and order over the good of the beloved community.

That path that we took brought us here—52 years after Dr. King’s death—where we are racially segregated, impoverished and massively divided. I’d like for people to understand that we were here before, we’ve made the wrong choice, and we have the opportunity now to make the right choice. We have to transform policy, and we have to transform hearts and minds and understand that antiracism and racial justice is a constant lifetime of work.

Dr. King used to say that the civil rights movement was about redeeming the nation’s soul, and I think he was absolutely right. At the core, we are absolutely good, but if we aren’t vigilant, we can do terrible things to each other.

Watch him discuss his new book in this Q&A produced by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.


‘The Defeat of Black Power,’ a Must-Read for the 2020 Election Season

As the 2020 election heats up, we are highlighting “The Defeat of Black Power,” authored by Leonard N. Moore, vice president for diversity and community engagement and the George Littlefield Professor of American History.

There are lessons that can be learned from examining two critical points in American history: the National Black Political Convention of 1972 and the 2020 Presidential Election. The book illustrates how themes of equal rights, social activism and political polarization are as relevant today as they were many decades ago. Visit the LSU Press website to learn more.

For three days in 1972 in Gary, Indiana, eight thousand American civil rights activists and Black Power leaders gathered at the National Black Political Convention, hoping to end a years-long feud that divided black America into two distinct camps: integrationists and separatists. While some form of this rift existed within black politics long before the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his death—and the power vacuum it created—heightened tensions between the two groups, and convention leaders sought to merge these competing ideologies into a national, unified call to action. What followed, however, effectively crippled the Black Power movement and fundamentally altered the political strategy of civil rights proponents. An intense and revealing history, Leonard N. Moore’s The Defeat of Black Power: Civil Rights and the National Black Political Convention of 1972provides the first in-depth evaluation of this critical moment in American history.

During the brief but highly charged meeting in March 1972, attendees confronted central questions surrounding black people’s involvement in the established political system: reject or accept integration and assimilation; determine the importance or futility of working within the broader white system; and assess the perceived benefits of running for public office. These issues illuminated key differences between integrationists and separatists, yet both sides understood the need to mobilize under a unified platform of black self-determination. At the end of the convention, determined to reach a consensus, officials produced “The National Black Political Agenda,” which addressed the black constituency’s priorities. While attendees and delegates agreed with nearly every provision, integrationists maintained their rejection of certain planks, namely the call for a U.S. constitutional convention and separatists’ demands for reparations. As a result, black activists and legislators withdrew their support less than ten weeks after the convention, dashing the promise of the 1972 assembly and undermining the prerogatives of black nationalists.

In The Defeat of Black Power, Moore shows how the convention signaled a turning point for the Black Power movement, whose leaders did not hold elective office and were now effectively barred access to the levers of social and political power. Thereafter, their influence within black communities rapidly declined, leaving civil rights activists and elected officials holding the mantle of black political leadership in 1972 and beyond.

A Shoemaker’s Dilemma: Q&A with UT Alum and Author Spencer Wise

Set in contemporary South China, The Emperor of Shoes is about a young Jewish Bostonian preparing to take over his family’s shoe business. But he ends up falling in love with a factory worker who may or may not be using him as a pawn to start a pro-democratic revolution in the factory.

For author Spencer Wise, the topic is deeply personal and well-researched. His family has been making and designing shoes for five generations — the last 30 years in China. The book was recently featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review and called “one of the seasons most promising debuts.”

I sat down with Wise, a University of Texas at Austin creative writing alumnus, to chat about his novel and how it explores the clash of Western and Eastern cultures:


What kind of research did it take to write this novel and what inspired you to take on the project?

Like most Jewish novels, this one starts with guilt. My family has been in the shoe business for five generations, and it ends with me. Though it was my choice, I feel guilty for ending this lineage that in so many ways defines me. So, I wanted to connect to what my father and grandfather and great-grandfather knew about this ancient art of shoemaking.

I began writing early drafts of the novel in graduate school at UT, where I began developing the characters while studying under such great writers and teachers as Elizabeth Harris, Oscar Casares, Pete LaSalle and Jim Magnuson.

In the summer of 2014, I did a real apprenticeship, learning every facet of the shoe business while living in the dormitory of a shoe factory in South China. I interviewed many of the workers and made a few deep friendships with younger supervisors who showed me the inner-workings of the factory. Some were even generous enough to invite me to their homes to meet their families.

Before doing research in China, did you know where the story was going?

It’s easy to forget the real people behind our clothes, our shoes, our furniture. So, I wanted to make their stories visible. I’d like to think that’s one of the ways we develop empathy. When I started researching, I was surprised to find that two ancient cultures — Jewish and Chinese — shared this pervasive sense of family as something that’s nurturing and wonderful; and yet, at the same, a yoke or burden, some claustrophobic thing one can’t escape from.

But I didn’t have any clue what the plot was about when I first got to China. The young Chinese people I met were immensely proud of their country and heritage, but showed surprising dissatisfaction toward the Chinese government, its corrupt, hypocritical system and the widening income gap. They seemed angry enough to do something about it.

How do you feel about The New York Times calling it a novel for “our times”?

It’s an honor to be recognized on that scale as an author, but I also think the issues in the book — cultural clashes, globalization, migrant labor, activism — have been relevant for a long, long time. I think when Trump was elected with such a divisive agenda, these issues were thrust into the spotlight, which was lucky for me. But the novel is about a world that’s always been here. One that we mostly choose not to look at it in order to maintain a comfortable quality of life.

To what extent is this book meant to be politically provocative?

Well, certainly it’s a critique of global capitalism and whether or not it can ever be done ethically. But it’s also a book about family business and shoemaking as an art form. When I was writing it, I just wanted to tell the most honest and urgent story I could.

More than anything, it’s a novel about two real people yearning to find their own identities in face of serious obstacles wrapped up in old traditions and heritage and family. How much of that can you lose — as you see in hyper-capitalistic China or in the attenuating levels of religiosity among Jews — before we forget who we are? I don’t have an answer, by the way. I like what Chekov said about “Anna Karenina:” “The job of the novelist is to ask questions, not answer them. Tolstoy asks them beautifully.” I’ve paraphrased, I think.

Though the Dad could be seen as “the evil capitalist boss,” I was surprised to find myself having compassion for him.

The family are self-made immigrants who suffered and worked tremendously hard to achieve the American dream. At the same time, I was deeply troubled by the idea that a Jewish family — like my own — who have been subject to such persecution and discrimination in the past only to turn around and exploit migrant workers in China.

In reality, the factory managers and owners still work 16-hour days. Their lives aren’t very glamorous. So, I think the book portrays the universal human struggle to make a living and support your family by any means necessary. While in China, I noticed that many business people abroad succumb to their exhaustion and inability to speak the langue by hiding in their hotels — a choice that is, I think, subconsciously necessary to create distance between “us” and “them” that makes their jobs possible.

It certainly seems quite true-to-life. Is it at all autobiographical?

No, no. Not at all! It is funny, but I’ve been asked this question before. I guess I should take it as a compliment that it feels so real. I worked hard to craft characters that the audience would care about: Complex people facing complex problems. That was my aim. But nothing in this novel happened to me. My father is nothing like the dad in the book. And I never tried to take over my family business.

By Katie Lazarowicz, PhD candidate in Asian Studies




Michener Center for Writers Presents Jane Miller

image of Jane Miller Acclaimed poet Jane Miller will give a reading at a Michener Center for Writers event on Tuesday, march 20, 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Building (POB),  Avaya Auditorium (room 2.302).

Miller is the author of the poetry volumes Thunderbird, A Palace of Pearls, Wherever You Lay Your Head, Memory at These Speeds: New & Selected Poems, August Zero, and American Odalisque, all from Copper Canyon Press.

Her honors include fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation, and she serves as adviser and jurist to numerous distinguished national book and poetry prizes. Who Is Trixie the Trasher? and Other Questions is forthcoming.

Miller is the Michener Center’s visiting poetry faculty this semester.

Celebrating Black History Month: Sneak Preview Into ‘As We Saw It’

Image of book cover In honor of Black History Month, we’re turning back the pages of time to the mid-1970s—an era when women’s sports programs were in the early stages of development on the Forty Acres. This pivotal point in UT Austin history is documented in the forthcoming book “As We Saw It” (UT Press). The collection of stories, co-edited by Division of Diversity and Community Engagement staff and faculty, gives readers a glimpse into the lives of the first Black undergraduate students to enroll at the university. Told against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South, this narrative is inextricably linked to current conversations about race, identity, access and equality in higher education.

Read this abridged chapter to learn more about the first Black female student athlete to receive an athletic scholarship at UT Austin. And be sure to pick up a copy when it hits bookshelves in Austin area bookstores on March 23!

Retha Swindell

The first athletic scholarship was not offered to a female athlete at UT until 1974, Women were thus faced with the complex task of navigating both the uncharted waters of racial integration and gender social politics. Sports as a pathway to educational opportunity and social mobility for women of color was less defined yet just as transformative. The experience of Retha Swindell, UT’s first Black female athlete, who played basketball for Texas from 1970 to 1974, provides a look into an under-explored experience.

The gender parity between female athletes and male athletes, regardless of race, was ever present during Retha’s ascension to college prestige.

“In high school we were always told we had to be better than our white counterparts,” she explained. “We were always taught you have to work, work, work. I remember Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson. I remember watching that group on TV. I remember liking Johnny Roberts from Nebraska; I definitely knew Jesse Owens, and there was definitely pride in seeing them compete. You always wanted to see someone Black on TV. Those male trailblazers represented progress and opportunity for all Black Americans. There was little visible precedent for women of color; our path was less defined and less lauded.”

Image of Retha Swindell

Swindell sits with teammates in her final season as a Longhorn.

That was the type of environment that female athletes faced. Black women were confronted with the challenge of advocating for more resources for female athletes while also pursuing more social opportunities and administrative support for all Black students. Before the introduction of Title IX, the UT women’s basketball team would hold bake sales and car washes to raise funds to travel to games and/or cut expenses by camping out in sleeping bags in the gym of the team they were playing.

The year Retha came to UT Austin, the women’s basketball team transitioned from an intramural sport to a varsity sport, thanks to Title IX, which was signed into law in 1972. Coach Rodney Page had been hired to teach physical education in 1972 by Dr. Betty Thompson, who oversaw recreational sports. In the fall of 1973, she asked him to coach the women’s basketball team.25 He was the first Black coach in an official capacity at UT. Page told Texas Athletics writer Natalie England, “I can’t say that there was much overt opposition, but at that time in the history of The University of Texas, there were no black head coaches and very few black faculty.”

For Retha, Coach Page’s position helped make possible her positive experience in a nominally integrated sports environment.

“Rodney drove the van to our out-of-town games, washed uniforms, and helped us mature as young women. He made sure we all knew each other. We learned to appreciate everybody’s differences. He would even pick whom we roomed with when we the women’s basketball program, seemed, at the very least insensitive to racial overtones. It was natural for her to want to put her own person in the job with so much at stake.”

Michaelson says, however, that Retha, who had been recruited by Page, decided to give Conradt “the benefit of the doubt.” In fact, Jody Conradt recalled in a 2007 Texas Month/,y interview that only two team members decided to stay on the team after Coach Page was fired-Retha and Cathy Self.

Retha would go on to become team captain her final year and would become her team’s first All-American. She also holds the Longhorn record for number of rebounds, 1,750.

“When journalists, historians, and students ask me about what the experience of being the first Black female basketball player at UT means, it’s always puzzling because although I was aware that was my story, my circumstances were just a part of the journey to get me to college and to get me a life beyond my childhood,” Retha reflected. “I did what I had to do, and I’m grateful if it has made a difference.”

Germanic Studies Professor Discusses “Dopers in Uniform” at Texas Book Festival

Since 1995, the Texas Book Festival has connected Texas authors with readers through literary panels and readings, book signings, demonstrations, live music, family fun and local eats. This year at the festival, Germanic Studies Professor John Hoberman presented his third book on the social impacts of anabolic steroids, Dopers in Uniform: The Hidden World of Police on Steroids.

His newest book follows two previous works on the topic, including Mortal Engines (1992), which examines the sports world; and Testosterone Dreams (2005), which looks at the medical world. Visit Life & Letters, the magazine of the College of Liberal Arts, to read Hoberman’s Q&A.


Award-Winning Poet Marie Howe to Give Reading at Michener Center Event

The Michener Center for Writers will host a reading by poet Marie Howe on Thursday, November 2, 7:30 p.m. in the Avaya Auditorium (POB 2.302).

Howe is the author of four award-winning volumes of poetry, most recently Magdalene, a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry this year.

Parking is available in the nearby UT San Jacinto Garage, and the event is free and open to the public.  For more information, contact Marla Akin, Michener Center for Writers assistant director, 512-471-8444.

Follow MCW’s events on FacebookTwitter or Instagram

UT’s Ultimate Summer Reading Guide 2017

images of books It’s that time of year again! The literary listing for the Freshman Reading Round-Up has arrived. Every year UT faculty members handpick books for the campus-wide summer book club that connects new students with outstanding faculty and fellow Longhorns.

“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone to keep its edge,” proclaims Tyrion Lannister in the bestselling book series turned hit TV series “Game of Thrones.”

The 2017 Freshman Reading Round-Up is a celebration of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. You need to be a freshman to join the event, but you don’t have to be a student to enjoy the books. Whether you’re looking to sharpen your mind or just escape into a story for a while, the titles listed in the reading guide are a good bet.



Celebrated Author Bret Anthony Johnston Named New Michener Center Director

Image of man in gray shirt and glasses

This month, award-winning author Bret Anthony Johnston has assumed the directorship of the Michener Center for Writers, one of the most selective and prestigious writing programs in the country.

Johnston has directed the creative writing program at Harvard University for the past 12 years. A native Texan, his fiction titles include the story collection Corpus Christi and the novel Remember Me Like This.

For the past 12 years, he has directed the creative writing program at Harvard University.  A serious skateboarder for over 30 years, he also wrote the documentary film about the sport, Waiting for Lightning, which was released by Samuel Goldwyn Films and premiered at Austin’s SXSW.

Johnston was born and reared in Corpus Christi, Texas, and attended Miami University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  His many honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, a “5 Under 35″ honor from the National Book Foundation, the Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers, and both the Stephen Turner Award and Kay Cattarulla Prize from the Texas Institute of Letters.  Most recently, he won the $30£ Sunday Times EFG Award, the world’s richest and most prestigious prize for a single short story for his “Half of What Atlee Rouse Knows about Horses,” originally published in American Short Fiction.

Johnston replaces outgoing director James Magnuson  who retired in May after 23 years at the helm of the Michener Center.  Magnuson was responsible for bringing the program from its inception to national prominence among MFA programs.

“Bret’s going to be great for the Center,” says Magnuson.  “He’s walking into a situation where there are extraordinary faculty and resources, and amazing students.  The students at the Michener Center have been the joy of my life, and I’m sure they will be for Bret, too.”

“With Mr. Michener’s original vision and Jim’s inspired leadership,” Johnston says, “the Michener Center for Writers has had, since its start, a hand in shaping contemporary literature. The opportunity to be part of the Center’s future is an honor and a privilege.  It’s a gift.  The students, faculty, and staff are unparalleled, and their commitment to art-making is contagious.  In most respects, my job is simply to keep the lights on and get out of their way.”

The Michener Center for Writers is a three-year interdisciplinary Master of Arts program. Admitting fiction writers, poets, playwrights, and screenwriting for fully-funded graduate study, it was created by a $20-million endowment from James A. Michener, philanthropist and author of over 50 books.