President Gormley Introduces Inaugural Fellow at August Wilson House Ground Blessing

Duquesne University President Ken Gormley joined actor/director Denzel Washington and area dignitaries in a ground-blessing ceremony at the August Wilson House in the city’s Hill District.

The Sept. 26 event celebrated the completion of the first phase of fundraising toward restoration of the childhood home of Wilson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. Duquesne’s Honors College has partnered with the Daisy Wilson Artist Community since 2011 to promote the dream of Paul Ellis, Wilson’s nephew, to transform the home into a cultural hub for artists and scholars.

Washington, who starred in the Broadway revival and movie version of Wilson’s “Fences,” is a lead fundraiser in the effort.

“I will do everything I can to keep this structure alive and sound; a place for us all to grow from,” Washington said. “I’m thankful. I’m grateful. I’m humble. I’m hopeful, and I’m determined.”

As part of the event, Gormley introduced the first Duquesne University August Wilson House Fellow: poet Natasha Trethewey, herself a Pulitzer Prize recipient. The fellowship is supported by a $100,000 grant from the Nancy Jones Beard Foundation.

“These fellowships will allow gifted artists and scholars of color to live on Duquesne’s campus and work right here on this site and in the community enriching the creative, literary and cultural vitality of the Hill District, the city and our entire region,” Gormley said.

Currently a Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University, Trethewey created “Where Poetry Lives,” a PBS NewsHour Poetry Series, during the second of two terms as the 19th poet laureate of the United States. Her volume Native Guard received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize and her book Monument: Poems New and Selected was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award.

“As we bless the ground here on Bedford Avenue – and as we welcome Natasha into our Pittsburgh community – we are witnessing a rebirth of the spirit of August Wilson and the spirit of his birthplace in the Hill,” Gormley said.


Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University’s academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.

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