Lester Goran inspired scores of writers over his 50-plus years at UM.
Special to UM News
Coral Gables, Fla. (February 7, 2014) – Lester Goran, a talented writer, inspirational teacher, and founder of the Creative Writing Program in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami, passed away on February 6. He was 85.
During a career at the college that spanned more than a half century, Goran helped more than 20,000 students find their voices and tell their stories.
Former students recall his use of zany phrases (such as “Throw a cat out the window!”) to inspire them to look for surprises in their work. They remember a fantastic storyteller who was quick to both praise and criticize their work, as needed. Many say that, without his guidance, they would not be writers today.
Goran joined the Arts and Sciences faculty in 1960, and helped to establish the first creative writing curriculum at UM in 1965. He was also instrumental in establishing the Master of Fine Arts program in 1991.
“Lester Goran was a writer who practiced his craft to the end,” said M. Evelina Galang, director of the Creative Writing Program. “In doing so, he was a master who, by example, lecture, and encouragement, ushered several important writers into this world—among them Terrence Cheng, Chantel Acevedo, Michelle Richmond, Paul Perry, and Crissa-Jean Chappell. He was a bright light who made the University of Miami’s Creative Writing Program what it is today.”
Throughout his long and illustrious teaching career, Goran wrote prolifically, penning eight novels, a memoir, and three short story collections. Many of his works are set in Pittsburgh, where he grew up in a tough neighborhood before earning both B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Pittsburgh.
In a 2010 interview, Goran said he was drawn to writing to explain his life. “I couldn’t understand myself unless I partially fictionalized myself into a drama. Produced, directed, and written by myself,” he said, adding that he loved teaching and “dealing with many young people who are on the edge of self-discovery.”
“A great University is built on a strong faculty, and Lester Goran is a shining example of our excellent team in the College of Arts and Sciences,” Dean Leonidas G. Bachas said. “We are all very proud of the Creative Writing Program, which Lester started. He has enlightened our community for 50 years, and his legacy will continue to live on in our students and their writings.”
During the 2010-11 academic year, the Creative Writing Program organized the Goran Reading Series in honor of his 50 years of service. Four prominent writers who had studied with Goran offered public readings, master classes, and community workshops. The program also established the Lester Goran Endowed Creative Writing Fellowship to offer emerging writers the opportunity to create.