Chair holders

Hua Hsu



The Willson Center will welcome Pulitzer Prize-winning author Hua Hsu to UGA March 20-21, 2024 as the annual Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding. His visit is part of the Willson Center’s Global Georgia public event series and the UGA Humanities Festival.

The main public event of Hsu’s residency will be a reading and conversation with Ed Pavlić, Distinguished Research Professor of English, African American studies, and creative writing, in the Georgia Museum of Art at 5:30 p.m. on March 21. He will also visit with students at UGA and at Clarke Central High School, as well as participate in a public zine-making workshop in the Delta Innovation Hub at 4 p.m. on March 20, which will include a conversation with Gerald Maa, director and editor of The Georgia Review. The full program of Delta Visiting Chair events is presented in partnership with the Center for Asian Studies and The Georgia Review.

“It’s an honor to follow in the footsteps of so many amazing thinkers and writers who have previously visited the University of Georgia as Delta Chairs,” Hsu said. “I’m excited to meet everyone in March. And, as a music fan long enamored with all the great bands that formed while studying at UGA, I’m particularly thrilled to finally see Athens for myself.”

Hsu’s memoir Stay True won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Memoir or Autobiography and the 2022 National Book Critics Circle award in autobiography. It was named a best book of the year by more than a dozen major publications and outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, TIME, The Atlantic, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and NPR.

Hsu is a staff writer at The New Yorker. He began creating zines about music, film, literature and other arts and cultural topics while in his teens and currently publishes Suspended in Time, which he describes as “a series of zines about music and life + an occasional record label.” He was named a finalist for the James Beard Award for Food Writing in 2013, and serves as a judge for literary competitions and fellowships including the PEN America Literary Awards. He serves on the boards of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and Critical Minded.

He is also the author of A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific, published in 2016 by Harvard University Press, and his scholarly work has been published in American Quarterly, Criticism, PMLA, and Genre. Hsu is professor of literature at Bard College, where he teaches classes on Asian American studies, transpacific studies, critical ethnic studies, popular culture and subculture, and literary nonfiction.

Hsu was nominated to be considered for the Delta Visiting Chair by Jamie Kreiner, professor of history and senior associate dean for the humanities in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, after conversations among members of the UGA Humanities Council, which organizes the Humanities Festival. Kreiner sits on the council, as does Timothy Yang, associate professor of history and director of the Center for Asian Studies.

“I have admired Hua Hsu’s writing for many years,” Yang said. “It seems like he is an expert on everything, but I think what he really has is a keen eye for observation and an ability to render every nuance he sees into precise – and seemingly effortless – prose. His writing makes you think and can also make you cry or burst out laughing.”

Angela Brown



The Willson Center will welcome Angela Brown, a renowned operatic soprano who leads Morning Brown, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides cultural enrichment opportunities to underserved communities, to UGA February 20-24 as the annual Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding. Brown’s week in residence will include learning sessions with students in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music and at Clarke Central High School, and public events in the Hodgson School and the Delta Innovation Hub.

Brown’s visit is presented by the Willson Center in partnership with the Hodgson School, the Institute for African American Studies, the Music Business Program, the department of theatre and film studies, and the Innovation Gateway.

At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, Brown will perform her signature show “Opera… from a Sistah’s Point of View” in the Hodgson School’s Edge Recital Hall. Admission to this event is free and open to the public, but seats are limited and may be reserved here. The program showcases the soprano’s formidable singing while making the material accessible to audiences with little or no exposure to opera or classical music. Through wry, candid explanations of opera plots that provide a context to the performances that is contemporary and colloquial, Brown invites young and untrained audiences to engage with an artistic medium to which they may never have felt connected.

At 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24 at the Delta Innovation Hub, 210 Spring St., Brown and Janet Jarriel, founder of JEJ Artists talent agency, will present “It Takes Two,” a workshop on navigating the business side of a career in the arts in cooperation with a professional manager. Both public events are free and open to all.

During her visit, Brown will give a master class for students in the Hodgson School. Students will also have opportunities for informal social interactions with the visiting chair over the course of the week.

“I am excited and proud to be in residence at the University of Georgia,” Brown said. “This residency is making one of my dreams for Morning Brown come true: to pour all of my experience into the next multicultural generation of singers. I would like to thank the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts for the honor of holding the Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding and advancing my mission of being a role model for future generations and letting them see that representation does matter.”

Brown has performed in operatic roles on stages around the world including the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, the National Opera of Paris, Venice’s Teatro de Fenice, and many more. Her 2004 Metropolitan Opera debut in the title role of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida was spectacularly well received, leading to a New York Times review that proclaimed “At last an Aida,” and a front-page Times profile a week later that called her emergence from an understudy role “perhaps the opera season’s most appealing story.” Brown has earned international acclaim not only for her classical turns in operas by Verdi, Strauss, Wagner, and Puccini, but for her performances of gospel and sacred music as well as for roles in modern works such as Bess in George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and Cilla in Richard Danielpour and Toni Morrison’s Margaret Garner.

“As I was singing on the opera and symphonic stages of the world, I would see very few people who looked like me on the stage and in the audience,” she said. “I wanted to help change that. So, I founded Morning Brown, Inc, my foundation, to bring awareness, representation, and performance opportunities to the next generation of multicultural artists.”

Those are familiar priorities to Lesley Feracho, associate director of the Institute for African American Studies. “We are very happy to co-sponsor Angela Brown’s residency as Delta Visiting Chair,” said Feracho, who also serves as associate professor in the department of Romance languages. “Her work is an important part of the rich, yet still underappreciated history of Black voices in opera – from Marian Anderson and Robert McFerrin, to Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman, and Kathleen Battle, to contemporary artists such as Eric Owens, J’Nai Bridges, Russell Thomas, and Julia Bullock, and to composers from Scott Joplin to Anthony Davis (in just the U.S. alone). Through her performances and her service with Morning Brown, her dedication to highlighting these histories and ongoing contributions while opening up larger, diverse spaces in opera is an important link to our work at the Institute of African American Studies.”

Morning Brown, Inc. was established in 2015 to center Brown’s work providing “exposure to classical music where the offering is rare or the experience is cost-prohibitive,” the nonprofit’s website states. Morning Brown works with allied organizations and individuals “to bridge the ever-widening gap between accessible live musical performance and historically excluded communities and present musical role models to encourage the next generation.”

Brown is co-host of the Classical Music Indy podcast Melanated Moments in Classical Music, which was named Best Music Podcast in the 2020 Black Podcasting Awards, and she has been featured in two recent PBS documentaries on the groundbreaking African-American contralto Marian Anderson: “Marian Anderson, The Whole World in Her Hands” and “Marian Anderson, Voice of Freedom.”

“The Hugh Hodgson School of Music is honored to host Angela Brown for the Delta Chair residency,” said Peter Jutras, professor of piano and director of the Hodgson School. “Her groundbreaking career and philanthropic work through Morning Brown, Inc. are inspirational. We are thrilled to have her working directly with our students to share her wisdom and expertise. This will be a tremendously exciting week!”




The Willson Center will welcome Pulitzer Prize winner and former Poet Laureate of the United States Natasha Trethewey to the University of Georgia as the 2021-2022 Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding. Trethewey, who is Board of Trustees Professor of English in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, will visit UGA and Athens April 21-22 for a slate of public events and informal conversations with college and high school students.

A reading in the UGA Chapel at 4 p.m. Thursday, Apr. 21 will be followed by a public reception on the lawn outside the Chapel. On Friday, Apr. 22, Trethewey will take part in a public conversation at the historic Morton Theatre in downtown Athens with Barbara McCaskill, professor of English and associate academic director of the Willson Center, and John Lowe, Barbara Methvin Professor in the department of English. Books will be offered for sale at the event by Avid Bookshop. Both events are free and open to the public. During her two-day visit, Trethewey will also meet with students in classes at both UGA and Clarke Central High School.

Trethewey has published five books of poetry including Monument: Poems New & Selected (2018), which was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award, and Native Guard (2006), for which she was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. She is also the author of Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2010) and Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir (2020), a New York Times bestseller. She was named the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States in 2012 and selected for a second term a year later. Her many honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, and election to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets in 2019. The Library of Congress awarded her the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry in 2020.

Trethewey has roots in Georgia and at UGA, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in English before moving on to Hollins College and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for her Master’s and M.F.A., respectively. She spent part of her childhood in Atlanta and taught for a time at Emory University. The University of Georgia Libraries inducted Trethewey into the Georgia Writers’ Hall of Fame in 2011.

“Natasha Trethewey creates poetry and memoir that move and inspire readers across generations and regions because she uses her identity and personal history – as a southerner, as the daughter of an interracial couple, as an artist and teacher, as an African American – to examine the afterlives of our national histories of slavery, civil war, and racial apartheid,” said McCaskill. “As the title of her collection of new and selected poetry, Monument, suggests, her writing channels voices of both ordinary and celebrated figures across time to examine who and what we remember of the past, and how these memories going forward may or may not serve us in the face of pressing global challenges such as climate change and pandemics.

“Trethewey is both a national and a global poet, whose timeless, innovative work has earned her a distinguished place in the literary canon alongside Whitman, Dickinson, Brooks, Hughes, and other beloved and treasured American writers.”

The Willson Center will provide copies of Trethewey’s books to faculty for distribution to students, free of charge, in spring 2022 classes that include the writer’s work.

“Natasha Trethewey’s visit as Delta Chair gives students an opportunity to engage directly and personally with a recent Poet Laureate of the United States who is a graduate of their own university,” said Carolyn Medine, professor of religion and director of the Institute of African American Studies. “Such encounters and interactions with eminent figures in the arts and humanities are among the unique and irreplaceable experiences offered by a great public institution of higher education, and programs like the Delta Chair help to ensure that UGA belongs in that category.

“Trethewey’s beautifully wrought poetry and her arresting memoirs render, as Trethewey said of poetry on Fresh Air, ‘a kind of faith’ that can offer ‘solace and meaning’ and open spaces of communion, of common human yearning, as when she imagines her maternal grandmother keeping time to music as she beats the dust out of a rug, the dust like ‘dandelion spores, each one / a wish for something better.’”

“The Delta Air Lines Foundation is pleased to provide support for The Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding and welcomes this year’s visiting chair, Natasha Trethewey, back to Georgia,” said Tad Hutcheson, senior vice president of The Delta Air Lines Foundation.

Michael Ondaatje



The Willson Center will welcome author Michael Ondaatje to the University of Georgia as the 2019-2020 Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding. Ondaatje, whose 1992 novel The English Patient was awarded the “Golden Booker” prize in 2018 as the best English-language novel of the past 50 years, will visit UGA and Athens October 24-25 for a slate of public events and small-scale interactions with college and high school students.

Ondaatje’s main public event will be a reading and conversation at 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24 in the UGA Chapel, followed by a meet-and-greet reception on the lawn outside the Chapel. On Friday, Oct. 25, Ondaatje will attend an 8 p.m. public reception and book signing at Ciné. Books will be offered for sale at the event by Avid Bookshop. Both events are free and open to the public. During his two-day visit, Ondaatje will also meet with students in classes at both UGA and Clarke Central High School.

Born in Sri Lanka, Ondaatje spent his late childhood in England and has lived in Canada since 1962. He is best known for his novels, including Coming Through Slaughter (1976), In the Skin of a Lion (1987), Anil’s Ghost (2000), Divisadero (2007), and most recently Warlight (2018), which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

The English Patient won the Man Booker, awarded each year for the best novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom, then was chosen for the Golden Booker from among the first 50 years of winners of the prize. The book is a kaleidoscopic tale of four characters ensconced in a bombed-out Italian villa near the end of World War II, its perspective constantly shifting through their separate and shared pasts and present in a densely layered exploration of the subjectiveness of identity and the personal resonance of history. A 1996 film adaptation, directed by Anthony Minghella and starring Juliette Binoche, Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe, Naveen Andrews, and Kristen Scott Thomas, won nine Academy Awards.

In addition to his novels, Ondaatje has published numerous acclaimed collections of poetry including There’s a Trick With a Knife I’m Learning To Do, The Cinnamon Peeler, and Handwriting, as well as a memoir of his childhood, a book of interviews with the film editor Walter Murch, and a critical analysis of the prose and poetry of Leonard Cohen. He also directed a series of documentary films in the 1970s.

Rebecca Rutstein



The Willson Center for Humanities and Arts welcomed Rebecca Rutstein, an artist whose work spans painting, sculpture, installation, and public art and explores abstraction inspired by science, data and maps, to the University of Georgia as the third Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding.

Rutstein visited UGA twice during the 2018-19 academic year: in November as part of the national conference of the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru), and again in March. During each of her visits, Rutstein gave public presentations with the widely known oceanographer Samantha Joye, Athletic Association Professor in Arts and Sciences in the department of marine sciences at UGA.

In addition to her public conversations with Joye and a public talk at Creature Comforts Brewing Co., Rutstein met with MFA and undergraduate classes in the Lamar Dodd School of Art as well as leading students from Clarke and Hillsman middle schools on a tour of her exhibition in the Georgia Museum of Art.

Between the two visits, Rutstein accompanied Joye on an expedition to Mexico’s Guaymas Basin in the Sea of Cortez that included a deep sea dive aboard Alvin, a submersible vessel able to withstand the crushing pressure of the extremes of the deep ocean. While scientists explored hydrothermal vents and carbon cycling processes in the basin, Rutstein set up her studio on the ship and created new works inspired by the data being collected in real time.

Rutstein created a 64-foot-long interactive sculptural installation with laser cut steel and LED lights, and a monumental four-part painting installation that were displayed at the Georgia Museum of Art. She also exhibited a mural-sized banner at the Lamar Dodd School of Art. The sculpture, with its hexagonal forms and reactive lighting, and the shapes present in the paintings were inspired by the hydrocarbon structures and bioluminescence present in Guaymas Basin.

In the process of creating works inspired by geology, microbiology and marine science, Rutstein has previously collaborated with scientists aboard research vessels sailing from the Galápagos Islands to California, Vietnam to Guam, and in the waters surrounding Tahiti. Prior to her expedition with Joye, in October 2018, she made her first descent in Alvin to the ocean floor off of the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica with a team of scientists from Temple University.

Rutstein has exhibited widely in museums, institutions and galleries, and has received numerous awards including the prestigious Pew Fellowship in the Arts. She has held more than 25 solo exhibitions at venues across the United States.

Joye’s research examines the complex feedbacks that drive elemental cycling in coastal and open ocean environments, and the effects of climate change and anthropogenic disturbances on critical environmental processes to gain a better understanding of how future changes will affect ecosystem functioning. Her work in deep sea extreme environments explores how microbial processes interact with geological and physical processes.

Colm Toibin



The Jane and Harry Willson Center for Humanities and Arts will welcome the internationally acclaimed Irish writer Colm Tóibín to the University of Georgia as the second annual Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding March 15-17, 2017.

Tóibín will hold public speaking events on and off the UGA campus, as well as participate in more personal interactions with students and faculty during his visit.

The Delta Visiting Chair, established by the Willson Center through the support of The Delta Air Lines Foundation, hosts outstanding global scholars, leading creative thinkers, artists and intellectuals who teach and perform research at UGA. Its first honoree was Alice Walker in 2015.

The chair is founded upon the legacy of the Delta Prize for Global Understanding, which from 1997-2011 was presented to individuals – including Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ted Turner, Desmond Tutu, and Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter – whose initiatives promoted world peace by advancing understanding and cooperation among cultures and nations.

A prize-winning novelist, short-story writer, dramatist and critic, Tóibín’s works have been translated into more than thirty languages. He is the author of the acclaimed novels The Master and Brooklyn, a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and a contributing editor at the London Review of Books.

“Colm Tóibín’s writing addresses our ideas of home, identity, love and belonging,” said Nicholas Allen, Franklin Professor of English and director of the Willson Center. “Tóibín is also an illuminating critic who brings his sharp intelligence to bear on literatures from the classics to the present. His reading and conversations will speak to the diversity of students across the campus. Ireland possesses one of the world’s great literary traditions and Tóibín is one its leading contemporary artists. Ireland shares deep connections with Georgia, which we will celebrate during Toibin’s visit in the week of St Patrick’s Day.”

The first public event of Tóibín’s visit will be a March 15 screening of the 2015 film adaptation of his 2009 novel Brooklyn at Ciné, 234 W. Hancock Ave. in downtown Athens. A public reception and book signing event with Avid Bookshop will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the CinéLab, followed by the screening at 7:30, which is free and open to the public but with extremely limited seating available. Tóibín will take part in an audience Q&A session after the film.

On March 16 at 3:30 p.m., Tóibín will give a reading and talk in the University of Georgia Chapel titled “Staying Home, Leaving Home: Ireland and America,” followed by a book signing event at Avid Bookshop on Prince Ave. at 6 p.m. On March 17 at 7 p.m., Tóibín will have a public conversation in the Seney-Stovall Chapel with the Irish writer and editor Fintan O’Toole, followed by a special St. Patrick’s Day performance by the singer Iarla Ó Lionáird.

O’Toole is a columnist, literary editor and drama critic for the Irish Times and one of Ireland’s leading public intellectuals. Ó Lionáird is one of Ireland’s most renowned singers. He is a member of The Gloaming and performed “Casadh an tSúgáin (Twisting the Rope)” in Brooklyn.

From March 15-25 in the Barrow Hall Gallery, the College of Family and Consumer Sciences will host “1950s Fashion Inspired by Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn,” an exhibit from the college’s historic clothing collection curated by Monica Sklar, assistant professor of textiles, merchandising, and interiors.

Tóibín has been shortlisted three times for the Man Booker Prize, for his novels The Blackwater Lightship (1999), The Master (2004), and The Testament of Mary (2012). The Master won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Stonewall Book Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and was named Novel of the Year by the Los Angeles Times. Brooklyn won the Costa Novel Award, and the film, adapted by screenwriter Nick Hornby, directed by John Crowley, and starring Saoirse Ronan, was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

“The Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding is an opportunity to showcase the excellence and diversity of research in the humanities and arts at the University of Georgia,” said Vice President for Research David Lee. “It involves students, faculty and the community in culture and creativity and I invite you to share in these readings and conversations about the relationship between Ireland and America in the literature and film of Colm Tóibín.”

Alice Walker



The Willson Center for Humanities and Arts will welcome Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker to the University of Georgia as the inaugural Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding October 14-15, 2015.

Walker will hold public speaking events on and off the UGA campus, as well as participate in more personal interactions with students and faculty during her visit.

A native of Eatonton, Ga., Walker will speak at the UGA Chapel on October 14 and at the Morton Theatre in downtown Athens on October 15. Details on these and other events taking place during her visit will be announced in the coming months.

“Alice Walker is one of the most gifted and inspirational writers of our time,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “It only is fitting that someone with such a profound influence on the literary world would serve as the inaugural Delta Chair. We are grateful to the Delta Air Lines Foundation for sponsoring this exciting global initiative, and we look forward to welcoming Alice back to campus in the fall.”

Walker is the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, for her 1982 novel “The Color Purple,” which also earned a National Book Award. She has written six other novels, four collections of short stories, four children’s books, and volumes of essays and poetry. Her first collection of poetry, “Once,” was published in 1968, followed by her first novel, “The Third Life of Grange Copeland,” in 1970. Throughout her public life, she has been an international activist for civil and human rights and a forceful advocate for women and girls.

Walker offered a personal message to the UGA and Athens communities:

“This gathering at the historic University of Georgia offers a unique and splendid opportunity for the Southern community from which I come to gather for a time of introduction, contemplation, and learning.

“It has been half a century since I lived in Georgia, yet my roots here remain, as does my interest in, and concern for, all the people of this region. As a writer, my early work is drenched in the ambiance of the South; those who have read my poetry, or short stories, particularly the ones in ‘In Love and Trouble,’ ‘Stories of Black Women,’ or my early novels: ‘The Third Life of Grange Copeland,’ ‘Meridian,’ and ‘The Color Purple’ will find more than a trace of my absorbed attention to the lives of Southerners in this area. As for Athens, Georgia, I once stayed here briefly with an aunt and uncle when I was two. I will be pleased to tell more of this story after I arrive!

“That my visit to the campus is made possible by Delta Airlines is both amusing and comforting. I have flown on Delta since I was a student at Spelman College in Atlanta in the early sixties, and, in fact, was one of the students selected to meet the plane (also Delta) of Andy Young and other civil rights associates when they first came to this state to work with Martin Luther King.

“I am pleased that Delta has instituted this program that will be, I believe, beneficial to all who attend. At least that is my wish.”

“Alice Walker’s work has uplifted so many of us worldwide, and we are proud to play a role in bringing her to Georgia so she can continue to inspire students and the community as a whole as a major figure in world literature,” said Delta CEO Richard Anderson. “As a global airline that is committed to the diversity of our customers and employees, it is a great honor to have someone as distinguished as Ms. Walker as the inaugural Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding at the University of Georgia.”

The Willson Center will partner with school districts in Athens-Clarke County and Putnam County, where Walker was born and raised, to involve high school students in events and related academic activities before and during Walker’s visit.

“The University of Georgia is a global public research university and we are honored to welcome one of the major figures of modern literature to the campus to connect with our community of students, faculty and citizens of all ages,” said Nicholas Allen, Franklin Professor of English and director of the Willson Center. “Alice Walker transformed the cultural imagination of Georgia and made its stories part of a world conversation about belonging, memory and the power of the human imagination to persevere and flourish.

“Our mission at the Wilson Center is to bring Georgia to the world and the world to Georgia. Alice Walker will be the first of a distinguished group of writers, thinkers and artists we will bring to Athens in the coming years thanks to the support of the Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding.”