Eight Women Elected Members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1904 as a highly selective group of 50 members within a larger organization called the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Over the years the two groups functioned separately with different memberships, budgets, and boards of directors. In 1993 the two groups finally agreed to form a single group of 250 members under the name of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Members are chosen from the fields of literature, music, and the fine arts. Members must be native or naturalized citizens of the United States. They are elected for life and pay no dues. New members are elected only upon the death of other members.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters recently inducted 11 individuals into the 250-member honorary society. Of the 11 new members, eight are women.

Chen Yi is the Lorena Searcy Cravens/Millsap/Missouri Distinguished Professor of Composition at the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Previously, she served as the composer-in-residence for the Women’s Philharmonic, Chanticleer, and Aptos Creative Arts Center, and taught on the composition faculty at the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Dr. Chen holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from the Central Conservatory in Beijing, China and a doctor of musical arts degree from Columbia University in New York City.

Meredith Monk is a composer, performer, director, vocalist, filmmaker, and choreographer. She composed the opera Atlas, which premiered with the Houston Opera in the early 1990s. She has received a MacArthur Fellowship and the Creative Capital Award in the discipline of Performing Arts. In 2015, President Barack Obama presented Monk with a National Medal of Arts, the highest honor in the United States specifically for achievement in the arts.

Monk is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York.

Suzan-Lori Parks is an art professor in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Earlier in her career she taught at the California Institute of the Arts and the Yale School of Drama. In 2002, she became the first African-American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her Broadway play, Topdog/Underdog. She is the author of the novel Getting Mother’s Body (Random House, 2003). Additionally, she has been the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Award.

Professor Parks is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she double majored in English and German literature.

Claudia Rankine is the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry in the departments of African American studies and English at Yale University. Previously, she taught at Pomona College in Claremont, California. Her poetry collection, Citizen: An American Lyrics (Graywolf Press, 2014)won the PEN Open Book Award, the PEN literary Award, the NAACP Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. In 2013, Professor Rankine was elected chancellor of the American Academy of Poets.

Professor Rankine is a graduate of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where she majored in English. She holds a master of fine arts degree in poetry from Columbia University.

Stacy Schiff is a former guest columnist for The New York Times, a trustee of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and a nonfiction author. Her biography of Vera Nabokov, Vera (Random House, 1999), won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. In 2005, she won the George Washington Book Prize for her book A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (Henry Holt, 2005). In 2018, she was named a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.

Schiff is a graduate of Williams College.

Grace Schulman is a Distinguished Professor of English at Baruch College of the City University of New York. She previously taught poetry at Princeton University, Columbia University, Wesleyan University, Bennington College, and Warren Wilson College. She is the author of various poetry collections, such as Without a Claim (Mariner, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). Additionally, she is the author of her memoir, Strange Paradise: Portrait of Marriage (Turtle Point Press, 2018). In 2016, Dr. Schulman received the Frost Medal for Distinguished Lifetime Achievement in American Poetry from the Poetry Society of America.

Professor Schulman is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C. She holds a Ph.D. from New York University.

Natasha Tretheway is the Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University. She was appointed as the United States Poet Laureate in 2012 and in 2014. Professor Trethewey is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection, Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) and four other poetry collections. She is also the author of Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (University of Georgia Press, 2010).

Professor Tretheway is a graduate of the University of Georgia where she majored in English. She holds a master’s degree in English and creative writing from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, and a master of fine arts degree in poetry from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Terry Tempest Williams is the Annie Clark Tanner Fellow in the Environmental Humanities Graduate program at the University of Utah. Previously, she served as a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College. She is the author of many books including Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place (Pantheon Books, 1991), An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field (Pantheon Books, 1994), Desert Quartet: An Erotic Landscape (Pantheon Books, 1995), Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert (Pantheon Books, 2001), and Finding Beauty in a Broken World (Pantheon Books, 2008).

Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in biology and a master’s degree in environmental education from the University of Utah.

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