at West Chester University
Establishing a Legacy of Live Readings
This former professor’s endowment connects students with leading authors, writers, and poets.
“Author readings are important, even to novices. So I established a reading series that will be at West Chester University in perpetuity.”
Luanne Smith knows the power of seeing writers read their work live. It’s what inspired her to become a writer herself. Luanne was a graduate student when she attended a reading by poet Jared Carter. The experience emboldened her to write about what she knew—and where she was from. “It changed the way I look at what writing is, in a way that really made my profession happen,” Luanne says.
That passion for readings carried over into Luanne’s storied professorship at the University. Over her three decades teaching creative writing—including time as co-director of the creative writing program—Luanne saw how her own students benefitted from interacting firsthand with poets and writers. Along with providing exposure to the University and its guests, the readings gave students valuable behind-the-scenes insights into writers’ processes and professions.
So, when Luanne decided to create an endowment, she worked with the Foundation to create a plan that benefits emerging writers in the short and long term. The Luanne and Roger Smith Endowment honors Luanne’s late brother Roger, a chemical engineer who shared her passion for reading. The endowment provides operating funds for creating, promoting, and sustaining three or four readings per year. Featuring established as well as up-and-coming writers, journalists and poets from around the world, the program will kick off this year (2021) with a series of virtual readings and events. Luanne’s goal for the endowment is to give English and writing students the same inspiration she benefitted from herself.
“I still get notes from former students who say readings were the highlight of their time at the University,” Luanne says. “It’s a process that helps everybody.”