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Former Prof, Writer Cyrus Colter Gets His Literary Due

November 10, 2011 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Cyrus Colter already had enjoyed a distinguished career in law when he joined the Northwestern University faculty in 1973 with the goal of building the department of African American studies. On Tuesday, Nov. 15, Colter -- with writers Theodore Dreiser, Harriet Monroe, Mike Royko, Carl Sandburg and Ida B. Wells -- will be inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.

The ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 6 p.m. in the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium of the Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State St., Chicago. Seating is limited. To get tickets, visit http://www.eventbrite.com/event/2406927184/eorg.

Reginald Gibbons, Frances Hooper Professor of Arts and Humanities and Northwestern’s Center for the Writing Arts director, will accept the award statue, and later will present it to the African American studies department in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Last year, the Chicago Writers Association inducted its first set of writers -- Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow and Gwendolyn Brooks -- into the city’s literary hall of fame.

Colter -- who probably is best known for “The Hippodrome” and “The Chocolate Soldier” --only began writing fiction at the age of 50. Author Kurt Vonnegut selected Colter’s first book, “The Beach Umbrella,” as the winner of the prestigious Iowa School of Letters Award when Colter was 60.

Some of Chicago’s distinguished literary figures today, including author and educator Gibbons, journalists Rick Kogan and Mary Mitchell, Chicago Poetry Slam founder Marc Smith and poet Sterling Plumpp, will take part in the Nov. 15 ceremony at the Harold Washington Library.

Colter, who died in 2002, was Northwestern’s first Chester D. Tripp Professor of the Humanities, a post he held until his retirement in 1978.

Among the 2011 Chicago Literary Hall of Fame jurors were Northwestern alumnae Cristina Henriquez and Angela Jackson and Medill faculty member Alex Kotlowitz.

Information about the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame and the ceremony also is available at http://www.chicagoliteraryhof.org/.
Topics: Campus Life