UND Writers Conference to receive $35,000 annually from Alice Carlson’s Estate


Peter Johnson

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Arts & Sciences


Beginning in 2015, the University of North Dakota Writers Conference will benefit from an annual commitment of $35,000, thanks to an estate gift from the late Alice Carlson. UND Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Tom DiLorenzo announced the funding during the Founders Day banquet while honoring the Department of English for earning the UND Award for Departmental Excellence in Service.

DiLorenzo was joined on stage by DeAnna Carlson Zink, executive vice president and CEO of the UND Alumni Association and Foundation, which secured the gift, and Debbie Storrs, dean of the UND College of Arts & Sciences.

"The UND Writers Conference is an important learning experience for students and the wider campus community, as well as Grand Forks community members and those from the region. I'm grateful to Alice Carlson, whose experience at the UND College of Arts & Sciences was so positive that she wanted future generations to have similar learning opportunities," said Storrs. "It provides an important foundation upon which we can build as we work with faculty in English and friends of the College to raise additional gifts to fund this important conference."

"The UND Writers Conference and the Department of English would like to express our immense gratitude to Alice Carlson for the gift that she has given. We are very proud of our tradition and our contribution to literary history. From our point of view, Alice Carlson's gift to the UND Writers Conference demonstrates the importance of literature, the College of Arts & Sciences, and the liberal arts to UND, as well as the broader community. While we have always thought that the UND Writers Conference is a valuable and unique experience, this gift validates our beliefs that the UND Writers Conference is a valuable and unique experience," said Crystal Alberts, who directs the UND Writers Conference and is a Department of English faculty member.

Alberts said the UND Writers Conference has provided free and open access to the literary arts not only to the students, faculty, and staff of UND, but also to the people of Grand Forks and throughout the region. "It is unlike any other literary event that we know of in the United States (and authors often tell us so), and it creates a unique experience for all of those who attend," she said.

There is still a need for additional funding, said Alberts, such as increasing the endowment that honors UND Writers Conference founder John Little. Donors can contribute to the John Little Memorial Endowment at https://www.undalumni.org/writers. In addition, a John Little fundraising dinner for the UND Writers Conference will be held on March 31, 2014, at Sanders (https://www.undalumni.org/writersconference). For more information on the dinner, contact Tanya Butler at tanya.butler@as.und.edu. For more information about the UND Writers Conference contact Crystal Alberts at or visit our website atwww.undwritersconference.org.

The 45th Annual UND Writers Conference, "Imagine: A Literary Festival on the Prairie," is set to take place April 2-4 at the North Dakota Museum of Art, and will feature authors such as three-time United States Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky and UND alumnus Brian Maxwell. Joining Pinsky and Maxwell this year are authors Jessica Lott, Geoff Dyer, Sarah Leavitt and Colson Whitehead.

About Alice Carlson, 1907-2012:

Born in Aneta, N.D., Jan. 4, 1907, Alice Lillian Carlson (nee Retzlaff) attended Aneta High School before graduating from what is now UND's College of Arts & Sciences in 1927. After graduation, she moved to New York City, where she worked at Columbia University Teacher's College until 1935, when she married Arnold W. Carlson. The couple lived in New York, where he worked for Time Inc, retiring as Vice President and Controller of Time Inc. Arnold passed away in 1985.

Alice passed away Oct. 21, 2012, at the age of 105.

The UND Writers Conference:

The UND Writers Conference began in 1970, when the late John Little, then a new faculty member in the Department of English, organized the Southern Writers Conference of the Arts with some of his friends. Funded by the College of Arts & Sciences as well as by some of the visiting writers themselves, the conference was so successful that it became an annual event.

A University event organized by faculty, staff, and students from the Department of English, the conference quickly gained community and regional appeal to become one of North Dakota's signature cultural events.

Now in its 45th year, the UND Writers Conference enjoys a national reputation. Writers regard it as one of the best-run, most interesting events of its kind, especially because of its strong public audiences, attracted by its free and open format.