Baruch’s Harman Writer-in-Residence
Program Celebrates 10th Anniversary
New York, NY – April 22, 2008—The 10th anniversary celebration of Baruch’s Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence Program brought some of the biggest names in literature together for a reunion that reflected the College’s passionate regard for the written and spoken word, and its commitment to a curriculum in which the arts play an integral role. The gala event took place April 16 in the panoramic Oval Room of the College’s Newman Vertical Campus building.
The program is endowed in the College’s Weissman School of Arts & Sciences thanks to the creative vision and generous gift of Baruch alumnus Dr. Sidney Harman (’39), executive chairman of Harman International Industries, Inc., and a pioneer in the high-fidelity industry.
U.S. poet laureate and current Harman-Writer-in-Residence Charles Simic (left) with Dr. Sidney Harman ('39)
"Writing is the key that unlocks one’s critical judgment,” says Harman.
Possessing a belief that the power of the arts could not only be harnessed for personal discovery and creative fulfillment, but could also transform and improve business practices, Harman teamed with Baruch journalism professor Roslyn Bernstein, the program’s director since its inception, to create the unique literary salon that has brought 20 distinguished poets, novelists, and non-fiction writers to campus since 1998.
Harman program director Professor Roslyn Bernstein
After a cocktail reception and light supper, students, faculty, staff, and alumni listened to former writers-in-residence reminisce and praise their students’ diligence, creativity, and intelligence.
Current U.S. poet laureate and present Harman Writer-in-Residence Charles Simic said his own background as an immigrant helped him relate to his students. “I have tremendous affection and sympathy for my students living the same life. I am honored to be here.”
“We judge a civilization by the art it makes,” proclaimed renowned Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, writer-in-residence during fall 2000. Fall 2002 writer Philip Gourevitch emphasized the importance of good writing in the 21st century, “Especially now, when words can mean so little, and often the opposite of their true definitions.”
“My students were so alert, so alive, so courteous,” enthused Lorrie Moore of her class in the spring of 2000. Novelist Sigrid Nunez, writer in fall 2007, applauded her students’ “humility, lack of vanity, and hard, hard work,” while fall 2006 writer Susan Choi deemed Baruch students the “least annoying, least pretentious students,” she had ever taught.
Sigrid Nunez Susan Choi (left) and Vanessa Strachan ('08)
A number of writers extolled the invigorating classroom discussions they had, expressing gratitude at the chance to participate in such a dynamic experience.
”It was so sublime,” said fall 2005 writer Francisco Goldman, “It was everything you dream an urban college can be. I believe I got more from it than my students possibly could have.”
Paul Auster (left) and Philip Gourevitch
“I loved these students more than any other students I’ve worked with,” said acclaimed post-modern author, poet, essayist, and translator Paul Auster, writer from spring 2002, who noted that in contrast to a similar teaching experience at Duke University, “The Baruch students were on the edge of their seats.”
Mark Kurlansky (right) and alumnus Dov Gold-Medina ('07)
“Writing is about processing ideas and communication,” explained spring 2007 writer Mark Kurlansky. “I don’t know about the students, but I learned a lot from them.”
Baruch students’ deep appreciation for the value of education did not go unnoticed. Perhaps because the majority of Baruch students are immigrants —many are often the first in their family to attend college — they understand the imperative of a strong work ethic better than most.
“We’re not exaggerating when we say that these students had the least sense of entitlement out of all the students we’ve worked with,” said novelist Colum McCann, the spring 2004 writer.
“All these wonderful remarks make me certain I did the right thing by staying at Baruch for 34 years,” said Professor Bernstein, glowing from kudos for her unflagging devotion to the program.
Bill Cheng ('05)
Representing the hundreds of talented Harman students was Bill Cheng (’05), who came to Baruch to major in accounting but decided to pursue his writing aspirations after discovering Paul Auster was the writer-in-residence during his freshman year. Cheng read from his essay praising the program entitled, “The Big Shoe,” and gave the toast honoring the munificence of Dr. Harman.
Baruch College President Kathleen Waldron thanked the writers, saying, “You have honored Baruch and inspired generations of writers by choosing to teach our students, CUNY students.”
Dr. Sidney Harman and Baruch College President Kathleen Waldron
Dr. Harman, eschewing notes and the microphone as he strolled philosophically about the dais, summed up a decade’s worth of creativity deftly: “Writing will in the end be the tool that helps you define what you truly believe in, and that is a gift for everyone.”
For more information on the Harman Writer-in-Residence program visit: http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/wsas/harman/
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