Western chair to honour Nobel laureate Munro
By Adela Talbot
December 11, 2013
Once a student, once a writer in residence, Alice Munro, LLD’76, never really left Western. Though her footsteps no longer echo in the halls of University College, there’s no doubt her name will continue to reverberate in the campus community.
Munro, the 2013 Nobel Laureate in Literature, a Western alumna and one of Canada’s most celebrated authors, is lending her name to the Alice Munro Chair in Creativity, to be housed in the Department of English and Writing Studies.
The announcement thrilled Western’s creative community, still reeling from celebrations of Munro’s prize, announced two months ago and awarded this week. Munro is the first Canadian woman to receive the honour, and Western’s first Nobel Prize.
“One of the things we can learn from Alice Munro’s extraordinary late-career honour is that we still live in a world in which our passions and creativity are valued,” said Bryce Traister, English professor and chair of English and Writing Studies.
“What an inspiring message we have now for our students, for our community, and for all of our creative ambitions.”
To fund the $3 million chair position, officially announced Tuesday, Western is seeking donor support of $1.5 million and will match the remaining $1.5 million to fully endow the new position.
“I challenge the broader community to participate, and not just monetarily, but in taking ownership and sharing in the pride,” said Western President Amit Chakma, last week at Senate.
Munro, 82, writes in such a way that captures the imagination of the public, daring readers to see themselves in the intimacies of someone else’s life, inviting them to think beyond their limitations, beyond the borders of their town, their province and their country. It’s this wonder of the creative imagination, of great literature, Western must nurture, Traister noted.
“When (Munro) got the award, we were excited, the world over. And we remain so. But it all also seemed right to us. (This chair) is a reflection, however coincidental, of the renewed investment we wanted to put into the creative process on an academic campus. This all just makes sense,” he said with a laugh.
“What the Alice Munro chair will do, it will be an embodiment of all of these kinds of ideas. It will be a real leader in helping all of us see how far we can push the idea of creativity on a modern campus. In many different ways, creativity plays an important role in work on campus.”
Traister added the creation of the chair fulfills a vision that started with the merger of the English and Writing departments, a move that hoped to house and nurture ideas surrounding creativity – the invention of words, reading, writing and studying literature – under one roof, emphasizing their role and importance in culture.
“What (Munro’s) achievement has shown us is that a modest beginning can have a significant endgame, or outcome,” Traister said.
“What we’ve been trying to do around here is create energy and momentum around creativity, the arts and writing. It’s what we do, and we do it well. One of the things about this chair is, it seems the university is also making this a priority as well. And that’s good news, not just for us, but for writing, for the arts and humanities,” he added.
“I really admire the university for itself taking a leadership role and sending a message, in this day and age, that Western University values, and values highly, ideas that we associate with creativity and creative expression. This (chair) gives us a way to bring the world to Western in a way that is powerful and has integrity.”
For more information, visit extraordinary.westernu.ca/munro.
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