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National Humanities Medal Recipient and American Essayist to Speak

National Humanities Medal Recipient and American Essayist to Speak

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One of America’s most important essayists and master of the “personal essay,” Richard Rodriguez will speak on “The American Culture, The Blurring of Boundaries, How Immigration and Interpretation will Continue to Impact the Fear of America,” at 7 p.m. Thursday, October 19, at the J. Irving Whalley Memorial Chapel on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus.

The lecture, which is being sponsored by the UPJ Office of the President and Diversity Working Group, is free of charge and open to the public.

Mr. Rodriguez, the son of Mexican immigrant parents, grew up in Sacramento, Calif.  He was an undergraduate at Stanford University and went on to spend two years in a religious studies program at Columbia.  He then studied English Renaissance literature at the Warburg Institute in London and was a doctoral candidate at the University of California in Berkeley.

He writes about the intersection of his personal life with some of the great vexing issues of America.  In 1982, Mr. Rodriguez published an intellectual autobiography, Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriquez, which was widely celebrated and criticized.  A memoir of a “scholarship boy,” Hunger remains controversial for its skepticism regarding bilingual education and affirmative action.  Today, this book is read in many American high schools and colleges. 

In 1992, he published Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father, a “philosophical travel book,” concerned with the moral landscape separating “Protestant America” and “Catholic Mexico.”  It was a runner-up for a Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction in 1993.

In 2002, he published Brown: The Last Discovery of America, a series of essays concerned with topics as varied as the cleaning of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, cubism, and Broadway musicals.  In the book he undermines America’s black and white notion of race and proposes the color brown for understanding the future (and past) of the Americas.

Mr. Rodriguez has worked as a journalist for over two decades for the Pacific News Service in San Francisco; he has been a contributing editor for Harper’s Magazine and the Sunday “Opinion” section of the Los Angeles Times.

He also has appeared on PBS.  For more than 10 years he appeared as an essayist on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer.  His televised essays on American life were honored in 1997 with a George Peabody Award.

In 1993, he received the Frankel Medal (now renamed “The National Humanities Medal”), the highest honor the federal government gives to recognize work done in the humanities.

A question-and-answer session with book signing will follow the lecture.  His book, Brown: The Last Discovery of America, is available at the UPJ Book Center and also will be available for purchase on site.  The Book Center, located on the lower level of the UPJ Student Union, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Advance interviews may be arranged by contacting the Office of Marketing and Public Relations at 814-269-2080.

Founded in 1927, the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown is a four-year, degree-granting college of the University of Pittsburgh with an enrollment of approximately 3,200.  The university offers more than 40 majors and is known for its engineering technology, education, humanities, natural and social sciences degree programs.  UPJ has been ranked “Third in the North” among public comprehensive colleges and universities, northern region, by U.S. News and World Report, America’s Best Colleges, 2007.
Posted by Shook, Kimberly on 10/2/2006 5:00:00 AM