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Release: Immediate

Pulitzer winners Graham, McPherson become Miller Distinguished Professors

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Poet Jorie Graham and fiction writer James Alan McPherson have been named the first F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professors in the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.

Graham and McPherson are graduates of the workshop and long-time faculty members. Graham's "The Dream of the Unified Field" won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and McPherson won the Pulitzer Prize for his short-story collection, "Elbow Room." Each has also been the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, which is popularly known as the "genius grant."

Graham's latest book of poetry is "The Errancy," and McPherson received considerable critical attention for his recent memoir, "Crabcakes."

The addition of the Miller professorships triples the number of named chairs in the Writers' Workshop, providing opportunities to honor faculty members who have helped maintain the status of the Writers' Workshop as the world's pre-eminent creative writing program. Poet Marvin Bell, another faculty member who is also a workshop alumnus, is the Flannery O'Connor Professor of Letters.

"I am enormously proud of the distinction that Jorie and Jim bring to the college and the impact they have had on our students," said Linda Maxson, dean of the UI College of Liberal Arts. "Both are excellent teachers and incredibly generous mentors for undergrads and grads alike."

"The named chairs recognize aspects of their creative work as well as the literary achievements that have brought them renown outside the academic community. Our academic and town communities are both enormously enriched by their presence in our midst."

The distinguished professorships are named for F. Wendell Miller, an attorney and farm manager from Rockwell City, Iowa, who died in 1995. Miller's will left the bulk of his estate to the UI and Iowa State University to encourage the advancement of academic endeavors. The Miller Endowment Trust was established from the Miller estate, with interest and income from the trust divided equally between ISU and the UI.