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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA Poetry Center director steps down after 10 years

Noelle R. Haro-Gomez/ Arizona Daily Wilcat Executive Director at the Poetry Center, Gail Browne, resigns after 11 years with the university.

The university is conducting a nationwide search for a new poetry center executive director following Gail Browne’s resignation.

During Browne’s 10 years as executive director, the poetry center went from being housed in three small historic residential buildings to the first of three “new landmark buildings” for poetry in the country. The Helen S. Schaefer building is also the only one of the three poetry centers of its kind that is directly connected to a university.

“I feel like I was hired in 2002 to construct this building and to develop an organization,” Browne said. “I feel that I’ve accomplished those goals and that the poetry center is in such a good place right now.”

Browne said she believes that now is the best time for new leadership to maintain and continue to grow the program. After her tenure is over, Browne will move to Phoenix to explore new opportunities while continuing to work with arts and literature.

“I’ve been involved in arts administration and arts marketing my entire career and I expect that I’ll continue to be involved in those areas,” Browne said.

Browne also said she agreed to be available as a consultant for the new executive director for a year after she leaves the UA.

“I was relieved to hear that she would be willing to stay on as a consultant and sometimes involved with some of our larger projects past the time of her stepping down,” said Mary Wildner-Bassett, dean of the College of Humanities.

Poetry is an area of emphasis within the College of Humanities. Along with being a resource for students, the poetry center reaches out to the community through readings, lectures, discussions, workshops and a K-12 outreach program.

“Half of our books were in storage … so there was just a limit to what we could really do in those spaces,” Browne said. “Here, not only are all the books available, we also have the space to present not only our reading series but a number of programs that help to build audiences for poetry and literature.”

Before becoming executive director, Browne had an arts marketing company in the San Francisco Bay Area. Browne said she was able to apply her business skills to her job at the UA, which involved raising money, first for the new building and then to pay for reading series at the center.

“It’s laborious to raise money for a capital campaign for building a building,” Browne said. “While we finished raising the money for this building, our next new project is to raise enough money for our programs endowment.”

When Browne was hired in 2002, there was talk about moving the poetry center from one set of small “near-collapse” buildings to another university building which wasn’t being used, according to Peter Likins, president emeritus from 1997 to 2006. Browne continued to raise money and Likins supported the decision to build the poetry center its own building.

“I think that’s why Gail gives me some credit for helping them get their new and really quite lovely home,” Likins said. “There’s a very large body over the generations of people who love that place … It is a world-class program.”

The Schaefer building has won eight awards since it opened in 2007, most of them for architecture and design.

Likins has maintained his admiration of the poetry center from a distance since he left in 2006, he said. When he found out about Browne’s decision to resign from the executive director position, Likins said he eventually understood that moving on to new things in life is natural.

“It’s always a surprise when a leadership changes at a university,” Likins said. “But then my second recognition was that this is the natural order of things. Universities have constant rotations in their leadership.”

Wildner-Bassett said Browne made her decision over the summer but waited for the right time to publicly announce her resignation. Browne is highly respected by many in the College of Humanities and in the community and finding out that she will no longer be working with the UA was bittersweet for everyone, Wildner-Bassett added.

“We’re sorry to see her go,” Wildner-Bassett said. “We understand. Gail has done so much, built so much for us, has been a wonderful leader.”

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