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Susan Gager Jackson '68 and her husband, John Jackson

Swannanoa Hall

Swannanoa Hall, home of the Jackson Center for Creative Writing


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The Jackson Center for Creative Writing is home to Hollins' esteemed undergraduate and graduate writing programs, which have produced dozens of writers of national and international acclaim, including Lee Smith '67 and Pulitzer Prize winners Annie Dillard '67, M.A. '68; Henry Taylor M.A. '66; and Natasha Trethewey M.A. '91. Trethewey was named U.S. Poet Laureate in June 2012. Kiran Desai M.A. '94 won both the Man Booker Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The fiction of Madison Smartt Bell M.A. '81 has been recognized by a Strauss Living Award, and numerous other Hollins writers have received NEA, Guggenheim, and countless other grants and awards for their poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, contributing to the cultural life of the nation disproportionately to the program's size.

While the graduate program, founded by Louis D. Rubin, has existed for more than 50 years and Hollins has offered classes in creative writing for even longer, the Jackson Center was initiated in 2008 through a $5 million gift from Hollins alumna, Susan Gager Jackson '68 and her husband, John Jackson, of Far Hills, New Jersey.

Susan Jackson is herself a published poet, author of Through a Gate of Trees: Poems (2007) and the chapbook, All The Light In Between (2013). "I am so appreciative of how my love of literature and writing were shaped at Hollins," she said. "It is an honor to be able to give something back." The Jackson Center for Creative Writing supports the annual Jackson Poetry Reading, promotion for the programs, as well as the Susan Gager Jackson Endowed Chair in Creative Writing, currently held by Professor Cathryn Hankla. Poetry editor of The Hollins Critic, Hankla is also the author of Phenomena, Learning the Mother Tongue, A Blue Moon in Poorwater, Afterimages, Negative History, Texas School Book Depository, Emerald City Blues, Poems for the Pardoned, The Land Between, Last Exposures and Fortune Teller Miracle Fish (stories).

The Jackson gift endows graduate and undergraduate fellowships and scholarships. Jeanne Larsen, M.A. '72, professor of English and a product of the program, directs the Jackson Center for Creative Writing. The author of a trilogy of novels set in China, along with volumes of criticism, poetry, and translation, Professor Larsen holds an M.A. from Hollins and a Ph.D. from Iowa in comparative literature and has taught at Hollins since 1980. Her most recent book is Why We Make Gardens (& Other Poems) (2010).

Article (PDF) reprinted from Roanoke Business magazine: "'Sacred ground for writers' - Hollins University program ranked among nation's best."