Successful Fundraising Campaign Establishes Creative Writing Award to Honor Retiring Penn State Professor

To honor Professor Robin Becker’s twenty-three years of service to Penn State University and her lasting impact on students, the Creative Writing Program in the Department of English last month launched a campaign to raise $23,000 to create a fund in her name. This annual award will support a student who shows not only financial need, but promise in creative writing, especially poetry.

The campaign was launched through Penn State’s “Let’s Grow State” crowdfunding platform and ran for thirty days, from May 17-June 17. During this time, the campaign website drew 91 supporters, 2,851 views of the page, and gifts totaling $23,005–an impressive outpouring of support from colleagues, former students, fellow writers, friends, and others interested in honoring Professor Becker and supporting creative writing at Penn State.

The lead gift of $5,000 came from Steven Fisher, a longtime friend and supporter of the English Department, where he sponsors the annual Fisher Family Writer-in-Residence program, which brings prominent writers to Penn State to work one-on-one with writing students, visit writing classes, and offer a public reading and lecture. Additional major gifts came from other longtime supporters of reading series and writing prizes in the department, including George and Barbara Kelly, Charles and Joan Rolling, Richard Mihelcic, and Rebecca Mihelcic Chapman.

Director of Creative Writing Charlotte Holmes and retiring Professor Robin Becker.

Recently retired as Liberal Arts Research Professor of English, Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, Becker was a venerated mentor for graduate, undergraduate, and returning students. In class, she encouraged them to consider their work and the work of their classmates as curious objects, rather than flawed drafts. She taught writers to value themselves, their time, and their efforts.

Many former students have gone on to publish books and win awards, including The APR/Honickman First Book Prize and The A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize. Students from her book reviewing class regularly publish in Harvard Review, Georgia Review, Publisher’s Weekly, Book News, The Women’s Review of Books, and many other outlets; some became editors at PANK!, Literary Mama, and The Los Angeles Review. Still others now teach and direct creative writing programs at colleges and universities across the country.

In the midst of this service, Becker also published seven books, served as Poetry Editor at the Women’s Review of Books and served as Penn State Laureate for 2010-2011.

This award will continue her legacy of literary citizenship. While the 30-day campaign has closed, the campaign website is still available to offer an overview of Professor Becker’s career at Penn State, video and written testimonials from former students, and a description the impact the award will make in the future.

Although the initial phase of the campaign has concluded, additional gifts to the award fund are still welcome and can be made at any time by visiting www.GiveTo.psu.edu/BeckerAward.

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