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Stuart Dybek named MacArthur Foundation Fellow

Sept. 25, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Stuart Dybek, an acclaimed short-story writer and member of the faculty at Western Michigan University for the past 33 years, is one of 24 Americans named today the recipient of a coveted John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.

Popularly know as the "genius awards," MacArthur Fellowships are awarded to nominees selected for their creativity, originality and the potential to make important contributions in the future. Each MacArthur Fellowship comes with $500,000, no strings attached, designed to provide support for the recipient's work over the next five years.

In outlining the variety of endeavors and caliber of winners of the 2007 awards, a MacArthur Foundation news release describes Dybek as "a short story writer borrowing from the Old World yet emerging from the New World to feed the imagination of contemporary Americans."

Dybek, who retired from full-time teaching at WMU earlier this year, is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at Northwestern University. He remains closely connected to WMU as an adjunct faculty member, and he teaches in the University's renowned Prague Summer Program.

Reached in Chicago, Dybek said he had no inkling that he would receive the award before being contacted this week by a representative of the MacArthur Foundation.

"I took the call on my cell phone and checked the number to see if it was a friend who was playing a practical joke," he said. "I even called the number back just to make sure."

Dybek says that, like all writers, his challenge is finding time to write, and he will use the MacArthur award to tackle projects he has planned for some time.

"The vast majority of writers, cannot support themselves with writing alone," he notes. "Everyone has two jobs. As banal as it sounds, I'll use this award to buy time and spend it on projects I've wanted to pursue."

MacArthur Fellows are selected by anonymous members of a 12-person selection committee who delve deeply into the work of nominees who demonstrate exceptional creativity and promise. Other recipients of this year's fellowships include a biomedical scientist, a blues musician, a forensic anthropologist, an inventor, a medieval historian and a spider silk biologist.

"As a group, this new class of Fellows takes one's breath away," says Daniel J. Socolow, director of the MacArthur Fellows Program. "As individuals, each is an original. To the person, they confirm that the creative individual is alive and well, at the cutting edge, and at work singularly and powerfully to make our world a better place. They are people who will change and influence our times."

The author of three short story collections, numerous anthologized works of short fiction, and two books of poetry, Dybek roots his writing firmly in the ethnic neighborhoods of his native Chicago. His fiction includes the books "Childhood and Other Neighborhoods," "The Coast of Chicago," and "I Sailed With Magellan." He is also the author of two collections of poetry--"Brass Knuckles" and "Streets in Their Own Ink," and his work has appeared in such publications as the New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, the Paris Review and the Atlantic Monthly.

Among the many honors Dybek has received for his work are a PEN/Bernard Malamud Prize, a Whiting Writer's Award, several O. Henry Prizes, two Pushcart Prizes and the Lannan Literary Award for fiction. He is among a handful of writers to have works published in both "The Best American Short Stories" and "The Best American Poetry" anthologies.

Dybek earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Loyola University of Chicago and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. He is now one of 756 people, ranging in age from 18 to 82 at the time of their selection, who have been named MacArthur Fellows since the program's inception in 1981.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is a private, independent grantmaking institution dedicated to building a more just and sustainable world. Through the support it provides, the Foundation fosters the development of knowledge, nurtures individual creativity, helps strengthen institutions, helps improve public policy, and provides information to the public, primarily through support for public interest media. With an endowment over $6.4 billion, the Foundation makes grants totaling approximately $225 million each year.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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