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University of Iowa News Release


May 4, 2009

Flannery O'Connor Graduate Fellowships to aid UI Writers' Workshop

After Flannery O'Connor graduated in 1947 with a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop she became a major force in American literature. Now a fellowship fund in the late writer's name will help the UI program attract other writers with similar potential.

The Flannery O'Connor Graduate Fellowship Fund was initiated by a gift commitment to the UI Foundation from the Ralph Schultz Family Foundation of Waterloo, Iowa. The endowed fund will increase the level of assistance available to Writers' Workshop students and affirm the program's commitment to developing promising writers regardless of financial means.

The O'Connor Fellowship Fund already has received gifts in addition to the initial one from the Ralph Schultz Family Foundation, and the Workshop actively encourages other contributions to further enhance the fund's impact.

Lan Samantha Chang, the director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, a unit of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the need for such assistance is critical to the program's future.

"As the model for creative-writing programs worldwide, the Iowa Writers' Workshop has long been the destination of choice for talented writers who wish to hone their craft," Chang said, noting that the program is extremely selective in its acceptance of applicants. "To preserve that distinction, we must provide the kind of financial support that will make it possible for the very best writers in the country to keep coming to Iowa. The Flannery O'Connor Graduate Fellowship will help ensure that the UI remains the most prestigious program in the country, and we are extremely grateful to the Ralph Schultz Family Foundation for launching this initiative."

The Iowa Writers' Workshop was the first creative-writing degree program in the United States. Iowa Writers' Workshop alumni have won 16 Pulitzer Prizes as well as numerous National Book Awards and other major literary honors. Four recent U.S. poets laureate have been graduates of the workshop.

In 2003 the Iowa Writers' Workshop received a National Humanities Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities; it was the first such medal awarded to a university and only the second given to an institution rather than an individual. In addition, the Writers' Workshop was an instrumental factor in the 2008 declaration of Iowa City as a City of Literature by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Iowa City is one of only three cities in the world to hold that designation.

Flannery O'Connor was one of the Iowa Writers' Workshop's best-known graduates and is widely considered one of America's greatest writers.

O'Connor was quoted in a recent biography ("Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor," By Brad Gooch) as saying that when she joined the Workshop, having initially come to the UI as a journalism student, she "didn't know a short story from an ad in the newspaper." In a letter, among a collection in a book edited by Sally Fitzgerald and titled "The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor," she wrote, "When I went to Iowa I had never heard of Faulkner, Kafka, Joyce, much less read them." After O'Connor left the UI, however, she became a towering figure in fiction writing, on a par with each of those writers. O'Connor died of lupus at the age of 39 in 1964.

The Ralph Schultz Family Foundation was established by Ralph Schultz of Waterloo, Iowa, a UI alumnus (1934 B.A., 1936 J.D.) who died in 2001.

To learn more about contributing to the Flannery O'Connor Graduate Fellowship Fund, contact Jane Van Voorhis, associate director of development for the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the UI Foundation, 800-648-6973 or

The UI acknowledges the UI Foundation as the preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the university. For more information about the UI Foundation visit

PHOTOS: For a high-resolution image of Lan Samantha Chang visit

For a Web quality image visit

STORY SOURCE: UI Foundation, P.O. Box 4550, Iowa City, Iowa 52244-4550

MEDIA CONTACTS: Jane Van Voorhis, UI Foundation, 319-335-3305 or 800-648-6973,; Susan Shullaw, UI Foundation, 319-335-3305 or 800-648-6973,