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NYS Writers Institute director Donald Faulkner resigns

August 5, 2016 GMT

ALBANY — After 21 years, Donald Faulkner has resigned as director of the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany.

Faulkner took an extended leave several months ago due to an undisclosed medical condition and did not return to work. He has not had any recent contact with his Writers Institute colleagues. He recently submitted a formal letter of resignation.

Faulkner, 64, joined the Writers Institute in 1995 as associate director. He replaced Tom Smith, a UAlbany English professor who held the position for a decade before he died of a heart attack on Sept. 26, 1994 at 63.

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“Don wants to pursue writing projects and is stepping down. We wish him the absolute best,” said Mark Koplik, Writers Institute program director, who started as a UAlbany graduate student in the early 1990s.

Author William Kennedy, who founded the Writers Institute in 1983 and serves as its executive director, praised Faulkner’s longevity and deep connections with publishers, editors and the literary community. Faulkner’s contacts were instrumental in booking hundreds of visiting poets, novelists, non-fiction writers, filmmakers and creative artists from around the world who spoke on the UAlbany campus during his tenure.

“Don was with us for a very long time and he did a fine job over the years,” Kennedy said. “Don knew a lot about literature. He was especially instrumental in helping us through some hard years when our (state) budget kept getting cut.”

Faulkner’s contacts helped bring in acclaimed visiting authors without charge. In a declining book publishing industry, publishers were anxious to get their authors in front of audiences during book promotion tours and picked up some of the costs the Writers Institute had previously paid.

Faulkner, who had been living in Schenectady, could not be reached for comment. It was unclear if he still lives locally.

He came to the Writers Institute from Yale University, where he directed the summer writing program. He was a senior lecturer at Yale and also taught literature courses at UAlbany. He earned a master’s degree in philosophy at Yale, where his mentor was John Hersey, the late Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. Faulkner published two books of poetry, wrote book reviews and edited four collections of writing by literary critic Malcolm Cowley.

Kennedy said a search will begin soon to replace Faulkner, but the position is being overhauled along with the Writers Institute itself.

“We’ll be renovating the way we present ourselves to the world,” Kennedy said, including live streaming events and a new focus on online digital content drawn from a vast archives of thousands of video and audio recordings of visiting writers.

“We’re looking for a new director with a strong background in social media and Internet savvy,” Kennedy said.

“We’re re-inventing ourselves the way newspapers are doing,” said the old newspaperman, who worked at the Times Union as a reporter and helped launch the San Juan Star newspaper in Puerto Rico.

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