AUSTIN, Texas — A memorial service to celebrate the life of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist James Michener will be held Nov. 20 in the setting of the 20th-century American art collection that Michener and his wife donated to The University of Texas at Austin. It is open to the public.
The service will be held at 4 p.m. in the Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery, located in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. The tone of the occasion will be celebratory and speakers are scheduled to talk about several topics, including Michener¡s philanthropic efforts and impact upon students at the Texas Center for Writers.
Michener, who died Oct. 16 in Austin, was the moving force behind the establishment of the UT writers’ center, an interdisciplinary graduate program in fiction, poetry, playwriting and screenwriting. Michener and his late wife, Mari Sabusawa Michener, made many donations to UT Austin, most recently a gift of $15 million in 1992 to endow the writing center, and $10 million for a new art museum at the University.
In all, the couple made gifts totaling more than $44 million to UT, the largest sum ever contributed to the University.
A musical prelude by a student ensemble will begin at 3:45 p.m., followed with remarks by UT Austin President Ad Interim Peter T. Flawn and by Dr. William H. Cunningham, chancellor of the UT System. There will be another musical interlude by the UT Chamber Singers, followed with remarks by Jessie Otto Hite, director of the Huntington art gallery and by James L. Magnuson, director of the Texas Center for Writers.
David Cleaves, a student at the writing center and Dr. Laura Mendenhall, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, also will speak. A reception will follow at 4:45 p.m.
Michener, who moved to Austin in the early 1980s when he was writing his book, Texas, regularly conducted seminars at the Texas Center for Writers. The author of more than 50 books, he received the Pulitzer Prize in 1947 for his Tales of the South Pacific, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977.
In fall of 1996, the author published an appraisal of public policy titled This Noble Land: My Vision for America, and on his 90th birthday, last February, he announced the publication of a volume of poetry, A Century of Sonnets, on which he had working intermittently for several years.
Another memorial service, co-hosted by Randon House and the Wm. Morris Agency, is scheduled for Nov. 18 in the Metropolitan Club in New York City.