Converse is pleased to welcome Ellen Bryant Voigt ‘64, MacArthur Fellow, Pulitzer Prize finalist, and former Poet Laureate of Vermont, back to Converse to deliver the keynote address at Founders’ Day on April 22, 2016 at 11:30 am.
Voigt was selected in 2015 by the MacArthur Foundation for the MacArthur Fellows, commonly known as the “genius grants”. She is among 24 exceptionally creative Fellows to receive a no-strings-attached $625,000 grant for their cutting-edge work that is transforming their fields. The grant is awarded, not on the basis of lifetime achievement, but on the propensity to contribute significant innovative work in the future.
Voigt graduated from Converse in 1964 with a degree in English. When she first arrived, her dream was to become a high school band director. After taking a few English courses, however, she started down a different path that would lead her to notoriety as one of the country’s most talented poets. “I came to Converse because of the School of Music, and had not even written my first poem,” says Ellen. “The faculty members of the English department ignited that spark.”
After leaving Converse Voigt went on to author six books of poetry and an essay collection; receive grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund; serve a four-year term as Poet-Laureate of the State of Vermont; and receive the 67th Academy of American Poets Merrill Fellowship. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Nation, and many literary journals.
Converse awarded Voigt an honorary degree in 1989, welcomed her as an Elizabeth Boatwright Coker Visiting Writer in 2003, and invited her to deliver the Converse commencement address in 2007. In her 2007 address, Voigt beckoned the graduates to “use your mind and mind your soul. You leave here with a valuable, privileged asset: a liberal arts education, which has as its goal to teach one how to think. Not how to compile ‘information’–that changes faster than we can speak of it–but how to divide the spurious from the real, the false from the true, to leave nothing of your experience unexamined, none of your principles untested.”
Voigt’s keynote address on Friday is part of the festivities honoring Converse’s founder, Dexter Edgar Converse. Strawberries and cream, Dexter’s favorite snack, will be served following the event. Founder’s Day kicks off a weekend of events including Alumnae Reunion and two open-to-the-public concerts at the newly-renovated Rainey Amphitheater.