Student creative writing award honors recently retired professor

Alumni and friends of the Creative Writing Program in the Penn State Department of English recently established an award to honor Robin Becker, who recently retired as liberal arts research professor of English and women’s gender, and sexuality studies.

The Robin Becker Award in Creative Writing will be given annually to a student with financial need who demonstrates promise in creative writing in general and poetry in particular.

As a teacher, Becker was a venerated mentor for graduate, undergraduate, and returning students. She used class time as an opportunity for students to consider their work and the work of their classmates as curious objects rather than flawed drafts. She also taught them to value themselves, their time, and their efforts as writers.

Many of her former students have gone on to publish books and win awards, including The APR/Honickman First Book Prize and The A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize. Students from her book reviewing class publish regularly in Harvard Review, Georgia Review, Publisher’s Weekly, Book News, The Women’s Review of Books, and many other outlets. Others are now editors for other recognized literary publications, and others still now teach and direct creative writing programs at colleges and universities across the country.

During her tenure, Becker also published seven books, served as Poetry Editor at the Women’s Review of Books, and served as Penn State Laureate for 2010-11.

To honor Becker’s service and her lasting impact on students, the Creative Writing Program decided to launch a 30-day campaign to create the fund in her name. The campaign, launched through Penn State’s “Let’s Grow State” crowdfunding platform, drew 91 supporters, 2,851 views of the page, and gifts totaling $23,005.

The lead gift of $5,000 came from Steven Fisher, a 1970 Penn State graduate in English and a longtime friend and supporter of the English Department who sponsors the annual Fisher Family Writer-in-Residence program. The program brings prominent writers to Penn State to work one-on-one with writing students, visit writing classes, and offer a public reading and lecture.

Additional gifts came from other longtime supporters of reading series and writing prizes in the department, including George and Barbara Kelly; Charles and Joan Rolling; Richard Mihelcic; and, Rebecca Mihelcic Chapman.

The campaign website is still available to those interested in learning more about Becker’s Penn State career, viewing testimonials from former students, and reading a description of the impact the award will have on future students. Additional gifts to the fund also can be made anytime by visiting

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Last Updated July 12, 2017