Chairman H. Carl McCall presents the 2018 New York State Author and State Poet Awards

October 3, 2018

Albany – On Friday, September 28th, SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall presented the New York State Author and State Poet Awards. These awards were instituted in 1985 when Governor Mario Cuomo and the State Legislature empowered The New York State Writers Institute, located at the University at Albany, to award the Edith Wharton Citation of Merit for Fiction Writers (State Author) and the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit for Poets (State Poet) to authors whose career achievements warranted distinction. The current Governor awards the citations every two years to one fiction writer and one poet of excellence. During their two-year terms the state laureates promote and encourage fiction writing and poetry throughout New York through public readings and talks within the state.

Colson Whitehead was selected by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo as the 2018-2020 New York State Author. He is the author of six novels and is celebrated for work that wrestles in heroic fashion with the meaning of American mythology, history and racial identity. Whitehead's most recent novel is The Underground Railroad (2017), an imaginative "alternate history" of pre-Civil War America, with its network of safe houses and secret routes for escaped slaves. This novel won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.

Alicia Suskin Ostriker was selected by Governor Cuomo as the 2018-2020 New York State Poet. She is the author of sixteen volumes of poetry and is one of the most acclaimed poets of her generation. Ostriker's work explores motherhood, womanhood, social justice and Jewish identity. Her newest collection is Waiting for the Light (2017), winner of the National Jewish Book Award, and a current reflection on life in New York City, America and the world.

"New York has long been the focal point of creativity and expression. This honor lauds some of the state's most gifted and significant writers,” said SUNY Chairman McCall after the award ceremony. “I am delighted to have presented Colson Whitehead and Alicia Ostriker with the esteemed ranks of State Author and State Poet, recognizing their literary impact on the people of New York and beyond."

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2022, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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