History/Mission

 

The John Updike Society was officially launched on May 24, 2009 at the 20th Annual American Literature Association Conference in Boston. The Society’s first roundtable, “John Updike: Fifty Years of Literary Influence,” was moderated by James Plath and featured panelists Marshall Boswell, Lawrence Broer, Jack De Bellis, and James Schiff. It was that core group, along with Updike’s Shillington, Pa., contact, Dave Silcox, who founded the Society. At the first business meeting, which immediately followed, members approved a mission statement and bylaws, then elected Plath as president/director, Schiff as director and editor of The John Updike Review, Peter Bailey as secretary/director, and Marshall Boswell, Jack De Bellis, Judith Newman, and David Parker Royal as the remaining directors on the board. Pictured (l to r) are Royal, Schiff, De Bellis, Plath, Boswell, and Bailey.

Our mission: The John Updike Society will be operated exclusively for the purposes of 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 promotes the publication of an annual refereed critical journal, The John Updike Review, and hosts biennial conferences in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and other places in which Updike spent time. The Society also has an archive for all researchers at Alvernia University, and will be actively engaged in promoting educational activities involving the study of John Updike’s works. Unless otherwise announced, the Society will hold its annual general membership meeting at the May conference of the American Literature Association, which alternates sites between Boston and San Francisco.

Society milestones:

May 24, 2009–The John Updike Society is launched at the 20th Annual American Literature Conference in Boston with 35 members and an elected board consisting of James Plath (president), James Schiff, Jack De Bellis, Marshall Boswell, Peter J. Bailey, Judith Newman, and Derek Parker Royal.

December 1, 2009–The Society gets its 100th member.

December 17, 2009–The Society is incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in the State of Illinois, organized for educational purposes.

September 29, 2010–It’s announced that a John Updike Society Archive will be established at Alvernia University in Reading, Pa., Updike’s birthplace.

October 1-3, 2010–Members gather for the First Biennial John Updike Society Conference in Reading, Pa., hosted by Alvernia University, an early booster of the organization. Keynote speakers: Ann Beattie and Lincoln Perry.

November 1, 2011–Under the editorship of James Schiff, The John Updike Review is launched, published by the University of Cincinnati and The John Updike Society, with Volume 1, Number 1 mailed to members.

December, 2011–Alvernia University assumes ownership of the John Updike Society Archive, featuring three collections that the society assembled:  The Dave Silcox/Thelma Lewis Collection, The Rachael C. Burchard Papers, and The Larry C. Randen Collection. The society will continue to help Alvernia develop the collection, which is renamed The John Updike Collections of the Alvernia University Archives and Special Collections.

February 24, 2012–The John Updike Society receives tax-exempt status as a non-profit public charity under section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

June 13-16, 2012–The Second Biennial John Updike Society Conference is held in Boston, Mass., hosted by Suffolk University. Keynote speaker: Joyce Carol Oates.

August 27, 2012–The John Updike Society purchases the childhood home at 117 Philadelphia Avenue in Shillington, Pa., with plans to turn it into a museum. The purchase is made possible by a generous donation from The Robert and Adele Schiff Family Foundation and with the assistance of local realtor Conrad Vanino, Jr., who works pro bono.

October 1-4, 2014–The Third Biennial John Updike Society Conference is held in Reading, Pa., hosted by Alvernia University and with a closing banquet at the historic Abraham Lincoln Hotel, where Updike and his Shillington High School classmates celebrated their 25th reunion. Keynote speakers: Adam Begley and Chip Kidd.

July 16, 2015–The society contracts R.J.Doerr Co. of Easton, Pa., to handle the restoration of The John Updike Childhood Home.

October, 2015–With the acquisition of a sideboard that belonged to Updike’s art teacher and across-the-street neighbor, the society begins actively seeking donations for The John Updike Childhood Home, which will be a museum and literary center.

February 2016–The John Updike Childhood Home receives its largest donation of exhibit materials with the acquisition of the Kevin Schehr collection of Updike first editions, limited editions, and initial magazine publications, re-gifted by Wabash College in Crawfordsville, In.

Recipients of The John Updike Society Distinguished Service Award, the society’s highest honor:

2010—James Yerkes, for his important contributions to Updike scholarship through The Centaurian

2013—Conrad Vanino, for his invaluable help acquiring and converting The John Updike Childhood Home into a museum

Special Appreciation:

2010—Tom Flynn and Alvernia University, for taking the initiative to help the society launch its biennial conferences

2010—Dave Silcox (Site Director, 1st Biennial Conference) and Jack De Bellis (Program Director)

2012—Quentin Miller (Site Director, 2nd Biennial Conference) and Bernard F. Rodgers, Jr. (Program Director)

2014—Sue Guay (Site Director, 3rd Biennial Conference) and Maria Mogford (Program Director)