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Alexander Kuo '61

We Are Knox...

Alexander Kuo '61

Writer, photographer, and professor

2010 Alumni Achievement Award Winner

Major: English

Writer, photographer, and professor Alexander W. Kuo has published more
than 350 poems, short stories, photographs, and essays in magazines,
newspapers, and anthologies around the world and is the author of eight
highly acclaimed books. In 1971, his collection The Window Tree became the first volume of poetry published by an Asian American in the United States, and in 2002, he won the American Book Award for Lipstick and Other Stories. Kuo began his distinguished career after receiving his bachelor's degree from Knox in 1961 and his master's of fine arts from the Iowa Writers Workshop, one of the nation's premiere writing programs, in 1963. He has worked as an administrator and a teacher of writing, literature, and ethnic studies at several colleges and universities and is the recipient of three National Endowment for the Arts awards, a Lingnan Foundation Fellowship, a Senior Fulbright Fellowship, and a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Residency, among others. Kuo has returned to his alma mater twice during his career, serving as Distinguished Writer-in-Residence in spring 2004 and spring 2009.

Knox Magazine: Please describe your Knox experience.
Alexander W. Kuo:
It was intense and relaxing at the same time. The classes, the teachers and friends fostered analysis, independence, and accountability. It basically said that it's all right to take a risk.

KM: How has that experience affected your life?
AK:
It has challenged me to do the right thing, or at least attempt to do the right thing. For me, Knox had established a high bar of excellence and allowed me to think in innovative ways, especially within the educational organization and the classroom.

KM:
What do you believe is your most notable achievement?
AK:
I think I did something good as an administrator at Roger Williams University (RWU), Northern Illinois University (NIU), and Central Washington University (CWU), designing and directing very innovative educational endeavors between 1969 and 1974. (Creative arts academic unit made up of creative writing, music performance, studio art, and theater at RWU; a two-year integrated four 15-semester hour team-taught, interdisciplinary program for some 800 inner-city students at NIU; and the first ethnic studies major in the country at CWU.)

KM:
What will you do to celebrate your Alumni Achievement Award?
AK:
I am humbled and honored to receive the award, but if I have to answer this question, I'll try to continue doing the same things.

KM:
What words of advice would you offer to current Knox students?

AK: Read and think; read and think; read and think. You'll never have as much time for doing that as you have now, believe me. Take a chance. And use your imagination.

Listen to the presentation of Kuo's 2010 Alumni Achievement Award by Robin Metz, Philip Sidney Post Professor of English.