Laura-Gray Street, an English professor and coordinator of Randolph’s creative writing program, announced the new names yesterday during an event celebrating the centennial anniversary of Buck’s graduation from the College. “Both women were from small towns and small colleges, and they produced very powerful writing and changed the world in significant ways,” Street said. “This acknowledges our debt to these writers, and it honors their connections with the College.”
Buck graduated from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in 1914 and later won the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature. She authored more than 100 books, stories, and essays, including many that helped bridge cultural gaps between China and the west.
Anne Spencer, a well-known Harlem Renaissance poet and civil rights activist, lived in Lynchburg with her husband, who delivered mail to the College. She also occasionally met with students from R-MWC at her home. Through a formal partnership, the College and the Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum work together to provide educational opportunities to students.
Street said it is fitting to honor these women. “These are authors who we hold up as examples for our own writers here,” Street said. “Anne Spencer was an important civil rights activist and did a lot in the community. Pearl Buck’s writing takes you into the experience of another culture and immerses you in it in a way that helps you understand things that are very different than your own lives and experiences.”
The College hosts several writers each year for four-week sessions during which they focus on writing, teach a class, and give public readings. Clifford Garstang, a fiction writer who is at Randolph this fall and will give a public reading tonight, is the first official Pearl S. Buck Writer-in-Residence. Last month, Garstang won the Library of Virginia 2013 Literary Award for Fiction for his novel What the Zhang Boys Know, which tells the story of a Chinese family living in America.
Shara Lessley, a widely published poet and author of Two-Headed Nightingale, will be the first Anne Spencer Poet-in-Residence and will give a public reading on March 26, 2014.
The College’s emerging writer position, which brings a writer who has not yet published a full-length book, has been renamed the Randolph Writer-in-Residence.
The Randolph College Visiting Writer Series is supported by The Carolyn Wilkerson Bell ’65 Visiting Scholar Fund, which was created and endowed through the generosity of the Maier Foundation, Inc. in 1976. The Foundation inaugurated the Visiting Scholar Program in order to encourage excellence in the composition of English prose and poetry at the College.