Carnegie Mellon Press Release: March 1, 2004
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Press Release

Jonathan Potts


For immediate release:
March 1, 2004

Carnegie Mellon Gives Award-Winning Poet Thomas Baker Professorship

PITTSBURGH—Jim Daniels, the director of Carnegie Mellon University's nationally renowned Creative Writing Program, has been named the Thomas Stockham Baker Professor of English. Daniels is one of Pittsburgh's best-known writers and one of Carnegie Mellon's most respected educators.

"It's great recognition for the English Department to have this professorship, and on a personal level, I am honored and flattered," Daniels said.

Daniels, who has been at Carnegie Mellon since 1981, has been the director of the Creative Writing Program—one of the nation's few such programs for undergraduates—for the past 10 years. As director, Daniels has established the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Writing Awards for high school and Carnegie Mellon students and a mentoring program for students at the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, and he has partnered with Pittsburgh Public Schools to host the annual Power of the Pen Conference for more than 500 high school students. Daniels has won the William H. and Frances S. Ryan Award for Meritorious Teaching from Carnegie Mellon and the Elliott Dunlap Smith Award, which is given for excellent undergraduate instruction by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

"Jim has been instrumental in linking Carnegie Mellon writers to the larger Pittsburgh community. He adds leadership and distinction to an already distinguished Creative Writing Program and to the English Department generally," said David Kaufer, head of the Department of English.

Last year, Daniels reached a milestone in his writing career with the publication of "Show and Tell: New and Selected Poems," his eighth book of poetry. At the same time, his second short story collection, "Detroit Tales," was published. The book's 12 stories center on Daniels' hometown, which he watched go from a gritty but prosperous factory town to an urban wasteland ravaged by riots and crime. The son and grandson of autoworkers, much of Daniels' poetry and fiction examines the travails of the working class. A story from "No Pets," his first fiction collection, was made into a motion picture, for which Daniels wrote the screenplay.

"Jim Daniels is a gifted writer who has excelled as an educator. Jim also is devoted to community service, and the Pittsburgh region has greatly benefited from his work," said John Lehoczky, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Carnegie Mellon.

Thomas Stockham Baker was the second president of the Carnegie Institute of Technology, the predecessor to Carnegie Mellon University. During the 13 years he was president, from 1922 to 1935, he oversaw a campus beautification project and increased the amount of English courses required of students. Under Baker's leadership, the College of Fine Arts prospered and grew in reputation. Baker recruited refugee scientists from Germany, one of whom, physicist Otto Stern, would win the Nobel Prize. When Baker died in 1939, he left his estate to support the Baker Professorship. Other faculty who have held the Baker professorship are Gladys Schmitt, A. Fred Sochatoff, Erwin Steinberg, Richard Young and Paul Hopper.


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