Converse Alumna Named MacArthur Foundation Fellow, Receives $625,000 Grant

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Converse alumna Ellen Bryant Voigt is among twenty-four exceptionally creative Fellows who will receive a no-strings-attached $625,000 grant for their cutting-edge work that is transforming their fields.

“These 24 delightfully diverse MacArthur Fellows are shedding light and making progress on critical issues, pushing the boundaries of their fields, and improving our world in imaginative, unexpected ways,” said MacArthur President Julia Stasch. “Their work, their commitment, and their creativity inspire us all.”

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

According to the Foundation, although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the fellowship is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, it is an investment in a person’s originality, insight, and potential towards the purpose of enabling recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.

A renowned poet exploring will and fate and the life cycles of the natural world, Voigt has a writing style that is wide-ranging, and includes short-lined lyrics, personal sonnets, and lines unregulated by length and punctuation. A 1964 graduate of Converse College, she returned to give the commencement address in 2007. In her address, Voigt beckoned the graduates to “use your mind and mind your soul. You leave here with a valuable, privileged asset: a liberal arts education, which has as its goal to teach one how to think. Not how to compile ‘information’–that changes faster than we can speak of it–but how to divide the spurious from the real, the false from the true, to leave nothing of your experience unexamined, none of your principles untested.” Converse honored Voigt as one of 125 Outstanding Alumnae in honor of the College’s 125th anniversary in 2013, and awarded her an honorary degree in 1989. She has also been featured on the Converse Visiting Writers Series.

More information on the MacArthur Fellowship Program.