Over the past five years, anonymously at first, a pair of alumni donors have helped the Creative Writing Program (CWP) and the Department of English bring such top-tier writers as Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Franzen, Toni Morrison and Salman Rushdie to campus for public readings and interaction with students and faculty.
"Both Cornell and the Department of English have long been ranked among the best in the country, whether those doing the ranking were academics or magazine reporters," former CWP Director Stephanie Vaughn said. "What Barbara and David Zalaznick have done is give us a big, ambitious reading series that is as prestigious as the university and the department that sponsor it."
The Zalaznicks, both Class of '76, have supported the Creative Writing Reading Series since 2007. They made their support formal last year, and the 2012-13 reading series is the first to bear their names.
"We hope to inspire Cornell students by bringing to campus the best that the literary world has to offer," David Zalaznick said.
"The gift and then the endowment have allowed us to establish a major reading series that brings to campus internationally recognized writers," Vaughn said. "The series is also a gift to the larger community -- all events are free and open to the public."
The series has presented both established and emerging poets and fiction writers. They include Elizabeth Alexander, Edwidge Danticat, Mark Doty, Denis Johnson, Charles Simic and Natasha Trethewey; as well as rising stars and bestselling authors who happen to be Cornell alumni, such as Morrison, MA '55; Catherine Chung, MFA '06; Tea Obreht, MFA '09; Alexi Zentner, MFA '09; and Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Junot Diaz, MFA '95.
"The colloquia and receptions that accompany most of the visits by the distinguished writers give our undergraduate and graduate students a chance to meet and talk to writers whom many of them are studying in their classes or reading for pleasure," Vaughn said. "Equally important, the series brings new and rising stars to campus, writers such as Terrance Hayes or, this coming spring term, Dana Spiotta."
In addition to the reading series, CWP presents readings by faculty authors and current MFA students in the program, and workshops and panels focused on writing, editing and publishing.
Vaughn and Franzen publicly acknowledged and thanked the Zalaznicks at Franzen's reading Nov. 1 in Sage Chapel.
The Spring 2013 Barbara and David Zalaznick Reading Series features five readings -- Spiotta, poets Ishion Hutchinson and Lynn Emanuel, the Cleaveland Memorial Reading by faculty, with Vaughn and Joanie Mackowski; and a group reading of "robot fiction" by MFA students inspired by computer-generated text devices such as Cleverbot.
David W. Zalaznick is founding and managing principal of The Jordan Company LP, a New York private equity firm. He also is chairman of Jordan/Zalaznick Advisers and of JZ International, LLC. A member of the Cornell Board of Trustees since 2000, he was elected a trustee emeritus and presidential councillor in 2012. A past vice chairman of the board, he also has chaired the university's Finance Committee.
Barbara Milstein Zalaznick has served three terms on the Cornell University Council and is a member of the College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Council.
They are trustees of the Barbara M. and David W. Zalaznick Foundation and have three children: Jeffrey '05, Samantha '09 and Amy '11.