top of page

New York State Writers Institute Celebrates 40 Years

By Liliana Cifuentes | January 30, 2023

NYS Writers Institute Founder William Kennedy addresses crowd at “Celebrating 40 Years” event.

Photo Credit: Liliana Cifuentes

“Today, we’re here to celebrate 40 years of literary excellence.”

That is how the President of the University at Albany’s Havidán Rodríguez greeted an auditorium filled with eager attendees who came together to commemorate the New York State Writers Institute’s (NYSWI) 40th anniversary this past Jan. 19. The event took place at UAlbany’s Recital Hall, located in the Performing Arts Center.

The celebration acknowledged the University at Albany Foundation’s 2022 Citizen Laureates and longtime supporters of the NYS Writers Institute Chet and Karen Opalka, who donated a gift of $1 million to establish the Opalka Endowed Directorship of the NYS Writers Institute at UAlbany. The endowment, which is the largest ever received in the institute’s history, will go toward the institute’s creative programming efforts and support it in its years to come.

“Karen and I are thrilled to be able to underwrite this endowment,” said Opalka as he addressed the crowd. “Let’s continue doing good things for SUNY Albany and the greater Capital Region.”

Current Director of the NYS Writers Institute Paul Grondahl shared his thoughts on receiving the gift.

“With this gift, we can continue to bring the greatest writers from around the world and the most diverse voices in contemporary literature to UAlbany, and to share their work with Capital Region audiences,” said Grondahl.

At the event, attendees were also fortunate to view “Passages,” a projection that debuted at the inaugural Albany Film Festival back in 2021. Narrated by American actor Stephen Lang, the projection took viewers back in time to show how the art of storytelling in Albany has evolved over time. To watch, visit the NYSWI website.

The event doubled as a birthday celebration for William Kennedy, the Writers Institute’s founder, who turned 95. To celebrate, audience members watched a video highlighting Kennedy’s accomplishments while honoring all of the guests that have visited the university since the institute’s founding in 1983. The event culminated with a performance presented by the City of Albany’s Pipe Band.

The New York State’s Writers Institute has a myriad of events planned for its Spring 2023 season, including a conversation with Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Gilbert King on “The Art of the ‘True Crime’ Podcast” this upcoming Wednesday, February 1. To stay updated on what else the institute has in store, subscribe to their mailing list on the NYSWI website.


bottom of page