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Family of Nancy Craig Blackburn '71 establishes scholarship fund for M.F.A students

Phillip B. Williams, core faculty member for Randolph's new M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program, reads from his work during the first M.F.A. residency this summer

Phillip B. Williams, core faculty member for Randolph’s new M.F.A. in creative writing program, reads from his work during a recent M.F.A. residency.

Randolph College recently announced a significant gift that will create a scholarship fund supporting students enrolled in the College’s Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.

The Nancy Craig Blackburn ’71 Fellowships and Scholarships Program was established by Nancy’s husband, Richard Blackburn, and her children, Craig and Blanton, as a way to honor her memory. Nancy passed away in 2018.

The program will provide selected students in each incoming M.F.A. cohort with scholarships or fellowships. The fellowship program will offer scholarships to students who have already established themselves as experienced writers. The scholarship program will offer smaller awards to students who show significant potential.

“Nancy’s family made this generous gift to the College because they wanted to honor her memory with a gift to her beloved alma mater,” said Farah Marks, vice president for institutional advancement. “Nancy loved reading and was active in the College both as a student and as an alumna. This was a perfect way to honor her legacy with a gift that will support students who share her literary passions.”

Originally from Alexandria, Virginia, Nancy graduated from the College with a political science degree. She married her childhood sweetheart the year she graduated, and the couple then lived in Georgia and Maryland before returning to Alexandria.

Randolph’s M.F.A. program was founded in 2018, and has quickly grown a reputation for attracting diverse, talented, and award-winning faculty.

“Students, again and again, say that the Randolph M.F.A. faculty members are unique in their diversity, their ascending talent, and their mentorship of students, which is both rigorous and compassionate,” said Gary Dop, English professor and director of the M.F.A. program.

“The Blackburn family’s generous gift will clearly help us in very practical ways,” he added. “But it is also among the most encouraging things I have experienced in my career—it is deeply affirming of our work and the journey the faculty and our current students have put into building this program.”

M.F.A. students participate in a two-year, intensive degree in creative writing, focusing on poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. During the two years, students complete four semesters of one-on-one mentorship and attend five 10-day residency sessions, one beginning each semester, as well as a final graduation residency at the end of the fourth semester.

Internationally and nationally acclaimed faculty attend the residency sessions to mentor students, deliver insightful lectures, lead collaborative workshops, facilitate discussions, and present their writing, both with the students and the public.

The first Nancy Craig Blackburn ’71 Fellow will be William Evans ’21 M.F.A., an acclaimed poet whose latest collection, We Inherit What the Fires Left, is new from Simon & Schuster.

“These resources will begin immediate work to support incoming student writers, many of whom come from underprivileged backgrounds, to join our community and learn the craft of writing,” Dop said. “Soon enough, we will all benefit from the books they write and the ways they shape the literary world for decades to come.”




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