Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet Gregory Pardlo To Speak at McKinney Writing Contest Awards Ceremony April 12

Troy, N.Y. — Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gregory Pardlo will read from his work while at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on April 12 during the annual McKinney Writing Contest awards ceremony. The program will be held in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies Howard P. Isermann Auditorium, beginning at 8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The annual contest and ceremony is co-sponsored by the Rensselaer Department of Communication and Media and the New York State Writers Institute. The contest honors student work in several categories: fiction/drama, poetry, essay, and electronic media. First, second, and third prizes are awarded to outstanding submissions in both graduate and undergraduate divisions. In addition to presenting these awards, Pardlo will read from his work and respond to questions from the audience.

The McKinney Writing Contest was established in 1941 by Samuel McKinney, who graduated from Rensselaer in 1884, in memory of his wife, Mary Earl McKinney. The contest is designed to encourage communication skills among Rensselaer students and promote the liberal arts. 

“The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences is proud to keep alive the tradition of the McKinney Writing Contest at Rensselaer. Both the contest and the reading by Gregory Pardlo are valuable ways for the Rensselaer community to celebrate literature,” said Mary Simoni, dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. “The Department of Communication and Media at Rensselaer is an internationally recognized center for interdisciplinary education and research. Programs like this create opportunities for us to understand the traditional and emerging technologies from various perspectives, while also celebrating our students’ efforts to use words and images to communicate powerful stories, messages, or experiences that they are willing to share with the campus community.” 

In addition to the McKinney Fund, the contest receives support from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Vollmer Fries Lecture Fund; School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; Rensselaer Union; Friends of the Folsom Library; Department of Communication and Media; the New York State Writers Institute; and the literary organization Poets & Writers.

Pardlo’s appearance is sponsored in part by the Vollmer Fries Lecture Series, which was established by Vollmer Fries, who graduated from Rensselaer in 1924 with a degree in electrical engineering. Fries led several manufacturing companies and served his country during World War II, serving as deputy chief of the War Production Board. In 1950, Fries became a member of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees.

Pardlo’s ​collection​ Digest (Four Way Books) won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. His other honors​ include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. His first collection, Totem, was selected by Brenda Hillman for the APR/Honickman Prize in 2007. He is also the author of Air Traffic, a memoir in essays forthcoming from Knopf.

“For more than 76 years, the McKinney Competition has celebrated excellent writing in generations of Rensselaer undergraduate and graduate students,” said Miles Kimball, professor and head of the Department of Communication and Media. “The annual competition creates an opportunity for students from all disciplines to learn how to change the world with powerful words and images.”

The upcoming reading and McKinney Writing Contest awards ceremony is vital to The New Polytechnic, an emerging paradigm for teaching, learning, and research at Rensselaer. The New Polytechnic is transformative in the global impact of research, in its innovative pedagogy, and in the lives of students at Rensselaer.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. For nearly 200 years, Rensselaer has been defining the scientific and technological advances of our world. Rensselaer faculty and alumni represent 85 members of the National Academy of Engineering, 17 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 25 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 8 members of the National Academy of Medicine, 8 members of the National Academy of Inventors, and 5 members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, as well as 6 National Medal of Technology winners, 5 National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With 7,000 students and nearly 100,000 living alumni, Rensselaer is addressing the global challenges facing the 21st century—to change lives, to advance society, and to change the world. To learn more, go to www.rpi.edu.