Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Illinois Department of English Blog


Welcome to the Department of English blog.

My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at

Monday, February 17, 2014

Richard Powers joins the Gallery of Excellence!

I am very pleased to report that the novelist Richard Powers has been selected to be part of the College of Liberal Arts and Science's online Gallery of Excellence, where he joins Nina Baym. The Gallery of Excellence is part of the centennial celebrations of the college and is meant to honor "brilliant teachers and researchers who spent their careers on campus [as well as] alumni who left to make their mark elsewhere."

Richard Powers is all that and more: an alumnus of our department, a beloved (former) colleague, a writer of engrossing and brilliant novels. Above all, he's a kind, ethical, and deeply humane person whom I feel fortunate to know and to have worked with for a number of years here at the University of Illinois. 

Congratulations, Rick, for another well deserved honor!

Here is the citation from the Gallery of Excellence:

There was a time, believe it or not, when Richard Powers was known more for his computer prowess than his writing. After graduating from the U of I, he was working as a computer programmer in Boston in the early 1980s when one day he walked into the Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and saw a 1914 photo of three farm boys headed to a dance. Something about it sparked an idea, and within 48 hours he quit his job to write his first novel.
The result was Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, published in 1985 to wide acclaim. Powers has been writing novels ever since, winning the National Book Award in 2006 for The Echo Maker, and named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award prior to his 2006 win.
After the success of his first book, Powers (BA ’78; MA ’80, English) moved to Holland to write without distraction, but he was drawn back to the Midwest, and in 1992 he returned to the U of I as a professor of English and writer-in-residence. During his time at Illinois he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and received a MacArthur “genius” fellowship, among many other honors.
“His generosity to colleagues and students in English is truly legendary,” says Curtis Perry, professor and former head of the Department of English. Powers recently retired from his position, and in fall 2013 he joined the Stanford University Department of English as a professor of creative writing.
Technology is often at the core of his novels, but complex characters and ideas drive the plot.
“The need for knowledge is as passionate as any other human obsession,” he once told The Believer magazine.

1 comment:

Peter H. Kuntz said...

Congratulations once again. However, they forgot to list your most outstanding talent--that of "Tech Support"
Many thanks for all such help.

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