Alice Walker to visit UGA in fall as inaugural Delta Visiting Chair

June 22, 2015

The Jane and Harry Willson Center for Humanities and Arts will welcome Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker to the University of Georgia as the inaugural Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding Oct. 14-15.

Walker will hold public speaking events on and off the UGA campus, as well as participate in more personal interactions with students and faculty during her visit.

The Delta Visiting Chair, established by the Willson Center through the support of the Delta Air Lines Foundation, hosts outstanding global scholars, creative thinkers, artists and intellectuals who teach and perform research at UGA. It is founded upon the legacy of the Delta Prize for Global Understanding, which from 1997-2011 was presented to individuals—including Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ted Turner, Desmond Tutu and Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter—whose initiatives promoted world peace by advancing understanding and cooperation among cultures and nations.

A native of Eatonton, Walker will speak Oct. 14 at the UGA Chapel and Oct. 15 at the Morton Theatre in downtown Athens. Details on these and other events taking place during her visit will be announced in the coming months.

“Alice Walker is one of the most gifted and inspirational writers of our time,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “It only is fitting that someone with such a profound influence on the literary world would serve as the inaugural Delta Chair. We are grateful to the Delta Air Lines Foundation for sponsoring this exciting global initiative, and we look forward to welcoming Ms. Walker back to campus in the fall.” 

Walker is the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for her 1982 novel “The Color Purple,” which also earned a National Book Award. She has written six other novels, four collections of short stories, four children’s books and volumes of essays and poetry. Her first collection of poetry, “Once,” was published in 1968, followed by her first novel, “The Third Life of Grange Copeland,” in 1970. Throughout her public life, she has been an international activist for civil and human rights and a forceful advocate for women and girls.

Walker offered a personal message to the UGA and Athens communities: “This gathering at the historic University of Georgia offers a unique and splendid opportunity for the Southern community from which I come to gather for a time of introduction, contemplation and learning.

“It has been half a century since I lived in Georgia, yet my roots here remain, as does my interest in, and concern for, all the people of this region. As a writer, my early work is drenched in the ambiance of the South; those who have read my poetry, or short stories, particularly the ones in ‘In Love and Trouble,’ ‘Stories of Black Women’ or my early novels: ‘The Third Life of Grange Copeland,’ ‘Meridian’ and ‘The Color Purple’ will find more than a trace of my absorbed attention to the lives of Southerners in this area. As for Athens, Georgia, I once stayed here briefly with an aunt and uncle when I was two. I will be pleased to tell more of this story after I arrive!

“That my visit to the campus is made possible by Delta Air Lines is both amusing and comforting. I have flown on Delta since I was a student at Spelman College in Atlanta in the early 60s, and, in fact, was one of the students selected to meet the plane (also Delta) of Andy Young and other civil rights associates when they first came to this state to work with Martin Luther King.

“I am pleased that Delta has instituted this program that will be, I believe, beneficial to all who attend. At least that is my wish.”

“Alice Walker’s work has uplifted so many of us worldwide, and we are proud to play a role in bringing her to Georgia so she can continue to inspire students and the community as a whole as a major figure in world literature,” said Delta CEO Richard Anderson. “As a global airline that is committed to the diversity of our customers and employees, it is a great honor to have someone as distinguished as Ms. Walker as the inaugural Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding at the University of Georgia.”

The Willson Center will partner with school districts in Athens-Clarke County and Putnam County, where Walker was born and raised, to involve high school students in events and related academic activities before and during Walker’s visit. 

“The University of Georgia is a global public research university, and we are honored to welcome one of the major figures of modern literature to the campus to connect with our community of students, faculty and citizens of all ages,” said Nicholas Allen, Franklin Professor of English and director of the Willson Center. “Alice Walker transformed the cultural imagination of Georgia and made its stories part of a world conversation about belonging, memory and the power of the human imagination to persevere and flourish.

“Our mission at the Wilson Center is to bring Georgia to the world and the world to Georgia. Alice Walker will be the first of a distinguished group of writers, thinkers and artists we will bring to Athens in the coming years thanks to the support of the Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding.”

Each holder of the Delta Visiting Chair will engage the Georgia community through lectures, seminars, discussions and programs; they will present global problems in local context by addressing pressing contemporary questions about the economy, society and the environment—with a focus on how the arts and humanities can intervene in major contemporary issues. More information is available at http://deltachair.uga.edu. Follow the Willson Center at http://twitter.com/willsoncenter for updates.

Willson Center for Humanities and Arts

The Jane and Harry Willson Center for Humanities and Arts is a unit of the Office of the Vice President for Research at UGA. In the service of its mission to promote research and creativity in the humanities and arts, the Willson Center sponsors and participates in numerous public events on and off the UGA campus throughout the academic year. It supports faculty through research grants, lectures, symposia, publications, visiting scholars, visiting artists, collaborative instruction, public conferences, exhibitions and performances. For more information, see http://willson.uga.edu/.  Jane Willson is an emeritus trustee of the University of Georgia Foundation.

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