Iconic American writer Maya Angelou will be on campus Oct. 4 as part of SIUE’s annual Arts & Issues series, along with seven other performers and speakers throughout the year.
Arts & Issues Director Grant Andree said planning for the series, funded by both the university and a number of sponsors such as the SIUE Foundation, the SIUE Graduate School and the SIUE Credit Union, begins more than a year in advance, gathering ideas and coordinating dates with potential presenters.
“Some of the ideas I collect over the course of the year when at booking conferences,” Andree said.
Juggling availability and selecting from a wide range of talent keeps him busy, Andree said, as he hunts for new and different artists and speakers to bring to campus.
“I like to bring in all these new things rather than repeat because there are just so many great artists out there,” Andree said.
Andree said Dean of Graduate Studies Steve Hansen was one person who suggested bringing Angelou to campus.
“She’s an important literary figure in American society, and for that reason alone she’s interesting to have in our Arts & Issues program,” Hansen said.
Angelou is best known for her series of autobiographies, including “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” as well as her poem “On the Pulse of the Morning,” written for President Clinton’s 1993 inauguration.
English professor emeritus Eugene Redmond has been friends with Angelou since 1970 and said having such an iconic poet whose work is taught in a number of classes at SIUE is of great importance to students and faculty alike.
“It’s hard to get through a university in the United States without reading something by Maya Angelou,” Redmond said, “but her work goes deeper here because of her St. Louis and SIUE history.”
Redmond said Angelou is originally from the St. Louis area and has returned many times over the past 70 years to visit friends and attend speaking engagements. Because of this familiarity, she can relate to fellow St. Louisians.
“She shares a common cultural matrix with those of us who live in the bistate area,” Redmond said.
Angelou also has strong connections with SIUE as well. Redmond said Angelou had served on a publication board for the Drumvoices Revue, which he founded, and has also been a trustee of the Writers’ Club since 1986. Angelou first spoke at SIUE in 1988, and Redmond said many people who were students at that time plan to return now as faculty, alumni and former Writers’ Club members.
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