Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Kurt Andersen is the host and co-creator of Studio 360, the cultural magazine show produced by Public Radio International and WNYC. He is the author of the best-selling novel Turn of the Century (1999), Heyday (2007), and True Believers (2012). The co-founder of Spy magazine.
Dana Gioia, the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, is an acclaimed poet, critic, and literary anthologist. His third collection of poetry, Interrogations at Noon (2001), won the American Book Award. He has also written collections of essays, including Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture (1992, 2002) and Disappearing Ink: Poetry at the End of Print Culture (2004). In 2015, he became the California State Poet Laureate.
Garrison Keillor's weekly radio program, A Prairie Home Companion, began in 1974 as a live variety show on Minnesota Public Radio. Born and educated in Minnesota, he is the author of many books, including Lake Wobegon Days (1985), Homegrown Democrat (2004), and The Keillor Reader (2014), and editor of Good Poems (2002). In 2006, he wrote and starred in the celebrated film A Prairie Home Companion.
A resident of Nebraska for forty years, Ted Kooser was the United States Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006. His many works of poetry include the Pulitzer Prize-winning Delights & Shadows (2004) and Flying at Night (2005). A professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he has received two NEA Fellowships in poetry, the Pushcart Prize, and the Stanley Kunitz Prize.
Betty Kort serves on the Board of Governors of The Willa Cather Foundation in Red Cloud, Nebraska. She taught English and art for 25 years at Hastings Senior High School, where she developed a celebrated interdisciplinary approach to teaching Willa Cather. Kort is an NEH Experienced Teacher Scholar, the 1993 Nebraska Teacher of the Year, and a Disney Awards Teacher.
Author and musician James McBride is perhaps best known for his acclaimed memoir, The Color of Water (1996). A former staff writer for The Washington Post, his first novel was Miracle at St. Anna (2002). McBride is also a saxophonist and composer, and his work includes the CD The Process, Volume One (2006). He is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University. His novel The Good Lord Bird (2013) won the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction.
Sharon O'Brien is the author of the biography Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice (1986). Since 1975, she has taught at Dickinson College, where she is a Professor of English and American Cultures. She is the editor of the three-volume Library of America edition on Willa Cather, as well as the author of a memoir, The Family Silver (2004).
General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), served as the 65th U.S. Secretary of State from January 2001 to January 2005. Raised in New York by West Indian immigrant parents, he served 35 years in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of Four-Star General, and served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993. He also served as National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan. General Powell is the author of a best-selling autobiography, My American Journey (1995).
One of California's leading historians, Kevin Starr teaches history at the University of Southern California. He served as the State Librarian of California from 1994 to 2004. He is best known for his multi-volume history series collectively called Americans and the California Dream. His other books include California: A History (2005) and Golden Gate (2010). He was a National Endowment for the Humanities Medalist in 2006.
Antonette Willa Skulpa Turner is the granddaughter of Anna Sadilek Pavelka, the Bohemian immigrant girl who was Willa Cather's model for the character of Ántonia Shimerda.