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05-08-2005

New York State Author Award Recipient Russell Banks Awarded Honorary Clarkson University Honorary Degree

[A photograph of Russell Banks is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/banks2.jpg]

Award-winning author Russell Banks received an honorary doctor of humane letters at Clarkson University's 112th Commencement in Potsdam, New York, on Sunday, May 8.

The degree was awarded for Banks' literary contributions over the past four decades and for his inspiration to young writers through his many works and years of teaching. He addressed more than 700 Clarkson students receiving bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees that day. banks2

"On that day, September 11, 2001, one era in American history ended and another began -- economically, technologically, militarily, psychologically, everything changed­.In a few years when those of us who are older than you are gone, all Americans younger than you who will have no memory whatsoever of the American that existed before 9/11.

"I urge you graduates to start now, or tomorrow morning, writing your autobiography, as you remember it, before you forget it."

Born in Newton, Massachusetts, in 1940, Banks was raised in New Hampshire, where according to his writings, the winters were endless, the soil barren, and the houses falling down. The eldest of four children, he says his upbringing played a major role in shaping his writing and published works, which includes 15 works of fiction. Banks' stories capture the experiences of working-class people living in the Northeast and often deal with issues of family, conflict, addiction, racism and economic hardship. His last three novels have been set in what he describes as hardscrabbleupstate New York towns.

The first in his family to attend college, Banks was admitted to Colgate University in 1958 on full academic scholarship, though he attended ¡°less than a semester.He then worked as a plumber, shoe salesman, and window dresser before enrolling at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating in 1967. Banks returned to New Hampshire to teach at Emerson College and later taught at the University of New Hampshire, Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, and Princeton University, where he is Howard G.B. Clarke University Professor of Humanities, Emeritus.

Banks makes his home in both Saratoga Springs and Keene, New York. In 2004, he was recognized with the New York State Writers Institute Author Award. He is the president of the International Parliament of Writers and founding president of the North American Network of Cities of Asylum.

PHOTO CAPTION: (L-R) Award-winning novelist Russell Banks receives an honorary doctor of humane letters from Clarkson University President Anthony G. Collins at the University's 112th Commencement in Potsdam, New York, on Sunday, May 8.The degree was awarded for Banks'literary contributions over the past four decades and for his inspiration to young writers through his many works and years of teaching.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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