Dana Gioia holds the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California. Gioia’s university-wide appointment includes affiliations with the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, USC Thornton School of Music, USC Marshall School of Business, and USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.
Gioia was named chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in 2003 by President George W. Bush and served two terms before stepping down in 2009; he was twice confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate. He is credited with revitalizing the once-embattled federal agency and gaining broad, bipartisan support in Congress and across the country for public funding of the arts. With a focus on access and education, he created the largest public programs in the NEA’s history and expanded the agency’s grant making to reach underserved communities across the nation.
Already widely published, Gioia gained international prominence in 1991 after the Atlantic Monthly printed his essay “Can Poetry Matter?” in which he argued that poets and poetry are necessary ingredients of an educated society. His 2001 collection of poems, Interrogations at Noon, won the American Book Award.
Gioia holds a BA and MBA from Stanford University and an MA in comparative literature from Harvard University. In 1992, he left a 15-year career as a marketing executive at General Foods to write full time. Also a trained musician, he has written two opera libretti and was the classical music critic at San Francisco magazine for seven years. Gioia currently directs the Harman-Eisner Program in the Arts at the Aspen Institute. He will continue to work with the Aspen Institute in a new position as the Harman-Eisner Senior Fellow in the Arts.