As the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor in Humanities, professor of English and director of the creative writing program at Colgate University, Peter Balakian ’73 is an accomplished author, scholar and teacher. In mid-April, we were delighted to learn that the past Guggenheim fellow has joined Philip Roth ’54 in the illustrious group of authors to receive a Pulitzer Prize. The
Pulitzer honors Balakian for Ozone Journal, a lyrical book of poetry addressing such
challenging issues as climate change, AIDS and the legacy of the Armenian genocide.
Balakian says his life as a poet began during his time at Bucknell. A history major,
he pursued interests in art history, writing and fine art, and he found a lifelong
mentor in Professor Jack Wheatcroft ’49, English, to whom Balakian paid tribute
in the winter issue of Bucknell Magazine. Balakian also recounts that, as a senior, he
sought critical feedback from Allen Ginsberg and, in subsequent correspondence,
invited the renowned Beat Generation poet to campus for an event sponsored by
President Charles Watts. It seems that Balakian thrived in a campus community
that allowed him to explore his interests, connect with faculty and take bold steps
to elevate the campus’ intellectual environment.
More than 40 years later, we still provide a rich and broad educational experience
for our students. One exemplar is our recently established, faculty-led Humanities
Center, which is coordinating humanities endeavors across the disciplines, enhancing
the environment for student and faculty scholarship in the humanities and increasing
the visibility of the humanities on — and beyond — campus. (You can read more
about the new center as well as Peter Balakian on Pages 4 and 11.)
Although many things have changed at Bucknell and in the world, what remains
constant are our shared human experiences of pain, conflict, love and connection
that Balakian so skillfully represents in verse. The opportunities created by the
Humanities Center will better prepare students to grapple with significant
challenges and seize great opportunities that lie ahead on their path to becoming
the world’s next Pulitzer Prize winners, humanitarians, thought leaders and agents
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