At the 20th annual conference of the American Literature Association in Boston, Updike scholars got together to form The John Updike Society, a not-for-profit organization devoted to “awakening and sustaining reader interest in the literature and life of John Updike, promoting literature written by Updike, and fostering and encouraging critical responses to Updike’s literary works.”
The Society’s first roundtable, “John Updike: Fifty Years of Literary Influence,” featured myself as moderator, with Jack De Bellis (Lehigh University), Lawrence Broer (University of South Florida), Marshall Boswell (Rhodes College), and James Schiff (University of Cincinnati) participating. It was that core group, along with Updike’s Shillington, Pa., contact Dave Silcox, who founded the Society. At the first business meeting on Sunday, May 24, the brand-new organization—which launched with 40 members, many of them voting by proxy—approved bylaws and elected Plath to serve as President/Director. Schiff was elected to be editor of The John Updike Review and a director, while Peter Bailey (St. Lawrence University) was elected Secretary/Director, and De Bellis, Boswell, and David Parker Royal (Texas A&M University-Commerce) were elected directors. In addition to publishing a journal of Updike studies, the Society plans to host conferences in Pennsylvania, Boston, and other places where Updike lived and worked. Pictured (l to r) are Royal, Schiff, De Bellis, Plath, Boswell, and Bailey. Not pictured is Judith Newman (University of Nottingham, U.K.), who was also elected to the board. The Society includes members from five different countries.
Illinois Wesleyan University will host the Society’s website. Updike received an honorary degree from IWU in February 2002, when he was featured speaker at a Founder’s Day Convocation celebrating the opening of The Ames Library.