Roxanne Bok

The following speech was delivered by Roxanne Bok at the Penn Club on October 13, 1998, for an audience of Penn alumni who had gathered to hear about the Kelly Writers House. Through a wonderfully generous gift to the Writers House endowment, Roxanne and Scott Bok soon will fully support our roster of visiting writers each year.

I have been asked to say a few words about how and why my husband Scott and I have come to be involved with the Kelly Writers House.

Scott and I are both Penn alums, economics majors, undergrad 1981. Our parriage is actually a product of coed dorms -- High Rise North 16th floor to be exact. While we both went on to business careers in banking and retailing, we remained avid readers. In 1990 we moved to London for five years where I went back to school to study 19th Century English and American Literature. I did an MA and am currently finishing up my doctoral thesis. Our interest in literature continued to grow.

About two years ago Scott and I went back to Penn for Homecoming and, having read a blurb about the House, we stopped in. We met Kerry Sherin, who enhusiastically showed us around the unfinished renovation, and we fell into a conversation about poetry, writing and experimental writers, particularly Paul Metcalf, whom my husband and I came to know personally as part of my doctoral work.

Since that almost chance visit, Scott and I have watched the House come into its own as a very exciting "space" for creativity. And while, as parents, our reading now tends mainly toward Dr. Suess and Beatrix Potter, we feel fortunate that we can also be a part of the creation of a serious place where students, writers and artists are stimulated and challenged by other students, writers and artists to continue to test language and express artistically. It is invaluable that these modern day 'salons' still organize themselves. Despite romantic notions of the artist as isoloto, writers want to be heard, and their work and ideas should both be nourished and challenged by interested and knowledgeable people. The House cultivates this process.

We look forward to watching the house evolve over the years. Its serious and high purpose combined with open-mindedness about imagination and expression in language, and the commitment of people like Kerry, Al and Paul, can only result in exciting "happenings." I encourage you to check it out.

- Roxanne Bok