Acclaimed author & Rhodes Scholar John Edgar Wideman to speak at New Paltz

NEW PALTZ – The State University of New York at New Paltz welcomes John Edgar Wideman, acclaimed fiction writer, memoirist and essayist, as a speaker in the College’s Distinguished Speaker Series at 7:30 p.m., Friday, October 15, in SUNY New Paltz Lecture Center 102. Wideman will read from a work in progress and offer his reflections on the African Diaspora. He will also receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at his presentation. A book signing and reception will follow after the event.

Wideman is the fifth guest in the College’s Distinguished Speaker Series that began in 2008. Every year, the College hosts two well-known speakers on campus. The goal of the Distinguished Speaker Series is to connect community members, alumni, friends, faculty, staff, students and their families with well-known authors, policy makers and leaders, scientists, media experts, business people, and other luminaries, on our campus.

Wideman grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and much of his writing is set there, especially in the Homewood neighborhood of the East End. He attended the University of Pennsylvania and was the second African-American to win a Rhodes Scholarship. He also graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.

A widely-celebrated writer and the winner of many literary awards, Wideman is the first to win the International PEN/Faulkner Award twice: in 1984 for Sent for You Yesterday and in 1990 for Philadelphia Fire. In 2000 he won the O. Henry Award for his short story Weight, published in The Callaloo Journal.

Wideman’s nonfiction book Brothers and Keepers received a National Book Critics Circle nomination, and his memoir Fatheralong: A Meditation on Fathers and Sons was a finalist for the National Book Award. Philadelphia Fire is Wideman’s most ambitious, most highly praised, and best selling work of fiction. He is also the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant. Wideman was chosen as winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story in 1998, for outstanding achievement in that genre. In 1997, his novel The Cattle Killing, won the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Best Historical Fiction.

Wideman has taught at the University of Wyoming, the University of Pennsylvania, where he founded and chaired the African American Studies Department, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s MFA Program for Poets & Writers. He currently teaches at Brown University, and sits on the contributing editorial board of the literary journal Conjunctions.

Ticket prices are $18 for the general public and $13 for SUNY New Paltz alumni/faculty/staff, seniors and students without a SUNY New Paltz ID. Students with a SUNY New Paltz ID are free, but tickets are limited and will only be available at the Lecture Center door on the night of the event.

For further information and to purchase tickets, please visit or call 845-257-3880 or 845-257-3972. Tickets may also be purchased in person from Monday September 27 forward from the College’s Box Office at the Parker Theatre Lobby Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Distinguished Speaker Series is made possible in part by generous donations from Peter and Helena Bienstock of the Shawangunk Valley Conservancy, Campus Auxiliary Services, Chronogram magazine, Burton and Miriam Gold, KeyBank, SUNY New Paltz Black Studies Department’s 2010 First World Diaspora Conference and Ulster Savings Bank. The College welcomes corporate sponsorships for the Distinguished Speaker Series. To find out about sponsorship and corporate recognition opportunities, please contact Sally Cross, Director of Development, at or (845) 257-3240.