University of Pittsburgh
January 20, 2012

Toi Derricotte Named to the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors and Pitt Undergraduate Receives 2012 Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers Fund Teaching Fellowship

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—Behind the larger stories about the University of Pittsburgh are other stories of faculty, staff, and student achievement as well as information on Pitt programs reaching new levels of success. The following is a compilation of some of those stories.

Pitt Professor Toi Derricotte Named to the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors

Toi Derricotte, an English professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has been elected to the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors, the academy’s advisory board of distinguished poets. Derricotte was elected along with poets Jane Hirshfield and Arthur Sze.

A renowned poet, Derricotte has had more than a thousand poems published in anthologies, journals, and magazines. She is the cofounder of the Cave Canem Foundation, an organization that has been offering workshops and retreats for African American poets since 1996.

In discussing Derricotte and her poetry, Pitt alumnus and Academy Chancellor Gerald Stern (A&S ’47), who served as the inaugural poet laureate of New Jersey from 2000 to 2002, said: “She is a deeply courageous, open and wise poet, a master of the lyric, but only as it combines with the narrative and moves—through pain—into the visionary. Her true subject is redemption, but the journey towards that is always earned, as she spares nothing, including herself. To read through her poetry is to discover not just a void, but a person—and a world.”

Established in 1946, the Academy of American Poets’ Board of Chancellors elects the recipients of the Wallace Stevens Award and the Academy of American Poets Fellowship. They also act as consultants to the organization on matters of artistic direction and programming and serve as ambassadors of poetry in the world at large. Previous Chancellors of the Academy have included Marianne Moore, W. H. Auden, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Robert Penn Warren, and James Merrill, among others.

Derricotte is the author of five books of poetry—The Undertaker’s Daughter (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011), Tender (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997), Captivity (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989), Natural Birth (Crossing Press, 1983), The Empress of the Death House (Lotus Press, 1978)—and the memoir The Black Notebooks: An Interior Journey (W.W. Norton & Co., 1997). In 1997, The Black Notebooks was included in The New York Times Book Review’s “Notable Books of the Year” listing and won the 1998 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction.

Among Derricotte’s many honors are being named National Book Award Judge in Poetry and winning the First Dudley Randall Award for National Contributions to Literature, the Paterson Poetry Prize for Tender, the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, two Pushcart Prizes, the Distinguished Pioneering of the Arts Award from the United Black Artists, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Alumni Achievement Award from New York University, the Barnes and Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers, Inc., the Elizabeth Kray Award for service to the field of poetry from Poets House, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Maryland State Arts Council, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. 

Derricotte earned the Bachelor of Arts degree in special education from Wayne State University in 1965 and the Master of Arts degree in English literature and creative writing from New York University in 1984.

Pitt Undergraduate Receives 2012 Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers Fund Teaching Fellowship

Christell Boyd-Abner, a University of Pittsburgh senior in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences who is majoring in psychology with related studies in sociology, has been selected to receive the 2012 Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellowship (WW-RBF) for Aspiring Teachers of Color. Boyd-Abner is among 25 individuals nationwide selected for the third cohort of WW-RBF recipients.

Chosen through a competitive selection process, each WW-RBF aspiring teacher receives a $30,000 stipend to complete a master’s degree in education, preparation to teach in a high-need public school, support throughout a three-year teaching commitment, and guidance toward teaching certification.

Pitt’s School of Education’s Master of Arts in Teaching program is among the graduate school programs Boyd-Abner, of Philadelphia, is considering. 

A first-generation college student, Boyd-Abner is an active member of Pitt’s Reaching Inside of Yourself for Excellence (RISE) Mentoring Program, which works to boost retention and graduation rates of underrepresented groups in postsecondary institutions. She received RISE’s Stand-Out Student Award given to those who exemplify hard work and dedication to “upholding the standards of a RISE student.”

Boyd-Abner has served as a volunteer in Philadelphia Freedom Schools and, prior to transferring from the Pitt-Bradford regional campus to the University’s Pittsburgh campus, tutored Bradford students in College Algebra 2. Through WeDoBigThings-Philadelphia, whose mission is to “socioeconomically diversify postsecondary institutions,” Boyd-Abner mentors inner-city youth who are aspiring college/university enrollees. This past fall, she was inducted into Psi Chi: The International Honor Society in Psychology.

Established in 1992 by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), the Fellowships for Aspiring Teachers of Color were created to help recruit, support, and retain individuals of color as public education teachers and administrators. Since the program’s inception, RBF has awarded nearly $8 million in grants and financial assistance to 400 fellows. In January 2009, it transferred the program to the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.

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