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University of Iowa News Release

April 8, 2005

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Iowa Writers' Workshop Celebrates Conroy's Directorship In April 22 Event

The University of Iowa Writers' Workshop will pay tribute to Frank Conroy's 18 years as director in a free event at 4 p.m. Friday, April 22 in Macbride Hall Auditorium on the UI campus. "In Honor of Frank Conroy" will include readings by two of the workshop's most illustrious graduates, T. Coraghessan Boyle and John Irving.

Conroy, who had announced that he was stepping down as director at the end of this semester, died on April 6 at the age of 69. He became the director of the Writers' Workshop in 1987.

Conroy -- writer, jazz pianist and pool shark -- was born in 1936, graduated from Haverford College in 1958 and became director of the National Endowment for the Arts literature program in 1982. He won numerous awards, including a Chevalier of Arts and Letters from the French government and a Grammy Award.

He wrote the classic memoir of youth "Stop-Time," the collection of stories "Midair," and the novel "Body and Soul." He edited "The Eleventh Draft: Craft and the Writing Life from Iowa Writers' Workshop," "The Iowa Award: The Best Stories, 1991-2000" and "The Iowa Award: The Best Stories from Twenty Years."

His work appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, GQ, Harper's Magazine, and Partisan Review, and many of these pieces were collected in "Dogs Bark, But the Caravan Rolls On."

His final book was "Time and Tide," a personal tour of the history and landscape of his beloved second home, Nantucket Island.

Author Chris Offutt, a visiting faculty member who was Conroy's student in the workshop, commented: "Frank had a great influence on every student fortunate enough to study with him, but his biggest impact was on American literature. He not only took his job seriously, but he provided unflagging support for young writers. Many of his former students have gone on to distinguished careers."

Thisbe Nissen, a 1997 workshop graduate who took over teaching duties for Conroy this semester, told the Daily Iowan that Conroy's teaching style was a "tough love" approach that influenced her style and the work of many other writers. "Frank Conroy's voice is in the head of so many contemporary writers," she said. "And he'll always be there. His influence is going to be felt for a very long time."

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