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University of Iowa Foundation News

Feb. 12, 2004

Gift To UI Writers' Workshop Creates First-Ever Faculty Fellowship

A gift of $125,000 from two University of Iowa supporters has created the first-ever endowed faculty fellowship for the Iowa Writers' Workshop in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Marlyn D. and Laura C. Rydson of Marco Island, Fla., and Elkhart, Ind., have committed $125,000 to create a named fellowship to support faculty in the Writers' Workshop, the nation's top-ranked graduate program in creative writing.

The Marlyn and Laura Rydson Faculty Fellowship Fund supports the scholarly activities of current or visiting faculty members in the workshop who are appointed as Marlyn and Laura Rydson Faculty Fellows. The fund supports the fellows' travel, research, presentations of professional works and other activities.

The fellowship was first awarded last year to Ethan Canin, workshop faculty member and well-known short story writer and novelist. This year's recipients are Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction writer James Alan McPherson and Lannan Literary Award-winning poet James Galvin, both longtime members of the workshop faculty.

The Rydsons toured the workshop during a campus visit in 2001. "We knew we were ready to make a major gift to the university," said Laura Rydson. "And our visit to the workshop was one of the weekend's highlights. Hearing [workshop director] Frank Conroy and Ethan Canin speak, and seeing the quality of work they are doing with young writers, convinced us that this was where we wanted to put our support."

Marlyn "Marly" Rydson received his B.A. degree in mathematics and science from the UI College of Liberal Arts in 1955 and attended graduate school at the UI in 1956, majoring in business and education. Laura Rydson received her B.S. degree in literature from Northwestern University in 1961. Marly Rydson is the retired president of various real estate and insurance agencies in Elkhart, Ind., and currently is vice president of The Rydson Company, L.L.C., a venture capital firm. Laura Rydson served for 10 years as vice chair of the Elkhart County Community Foundation, where she continues to volunteer. Besides sharing an interest in literature, the couple enjoys theatre and jazz.

"We're really pleased to see that UI President Skorton is such a strong supporter of the arts at the university," said Marly Rydson.

Established in 1936, the Iowa Writers' Workshop was the first creative writing degree program in the country, and it maintains a reputation as the nation's top writing workshop. Graduates include Flannery O'Connor, Wallace Stegner, John Irving, Rita Dove, T. C. Boyle and scores of other famous American writers.

"Support from such generous people as Marly and Laura helps the workshop at a time when many sources of funding for the arts are drying up," said Frank Conroy. "The workshop has been the pre-eminent program in the country for almost three-quarters of a century, and endowments like the one established by the Rydsons go a long way toward ensuring it remains that way."

More information about the Iowa Writers' Workshop is available at its web site,

The Rydson gift is part of the UI's $850 million comprehensive campaign, which will run through 2005 and is being conducted under the guidance of the UI Foundation. Named "Good. Better. Best. Iowa: The Campaign to Advance Our Great University," the seven-year effort is raising private funds to help launch a variety of initiatives across the university, substantially increase the number of UI scholarships and endowed faculty positions, support new educational and research facilities, build the UI's endowment and fund outreach and service programs to benefit Iowans.

The UI Foundation is acknowledged by the UI as a preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the university. For more information about the "Good. Better. Best. Iowa" campaign, visit its web site at

STORY SOURCE: UI Foundation, Levitt Center for University Advancement, One West Park Road, P.O. Box 4550, Iowa City, Iowa 52244-4550.

CONTACTS: Media: Michael Kingan, senior director of development, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 319-335-3305 or 800-648-6973,; Writer: Betsy Hickok

PHOTOS/GRAPHICS: Photos for this story are available for downloading at: