'If Today Be Sweet'

Author Thrity Umrigar to speak at Luther’s Opening Convocation Sept. 5

Thrity Umrigar, best-selling author of “The Space Between Us,” will present Luther College’s 2013 Opening Convocation Lecture “If Today Be Sweet,” Thursday, Sept. 5.

Convocation begins at 9:40 a.m. in the Center for Faith and Life Main Hall on the Luther campus. The service is open to the public with no charge for admission.

Luther will host a Q&A session followed by a book signing with Umrigar at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 4, in the Center for Faith and Life Main Hall.

Luther’s first-year class is reading Umrigar’s popular book, “The Space Between Us” as part of their required coursework.

Umrigar’s books have been translated to more than 15 languages and published in numerous countries.

She is also the author of “The Weight of Heaven,” “If Today be Sweet,” “First Darling of the Morning” and “Bombay Time.” Umrigar’s newest book “The World We Found,” won the 2013 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction.

Umrigar also received the Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University and was named winner of the Cleveland Arts Prize.

Convocation will include the installation of Lise Kildegaard, Luther professor of English, as the Jones Professor. The Dennis M. Jones Distinguished Teaching Professorship in the Humanities, named in honor of former Luther College Professor of English Dennis M. Jones (1932-90), is awarded to a member of the Luther faculty who honors the values and traditions of the humanities, enriches the intellectual life of students and provides academic leadership in the humanities.  The Jones Professor devotes part of his/her professional time to a project that will enhance humanities education, supported by funds from the Jones Distinguished Professor Endowment.        

Luther will also install Kirk Larsen, Luther professor of biology, as the Rulon Chair. The Russell R. Rulon Endowed Chair in Biology honors Russell R. Rulon, professor of biology at Luther from 1963 to 2000. In support of Luther professors who have demonstrated excellence in teaching biology and dedication to serving as an advisor and mentor to students, the Rulon Endowment was created through the support of colleagues, friends and alumni who were beneficiaries of Rulon’s teaching and mentoring skills. The Rulon Chair will devote part of his/her time to a project that will enhance the training of students in science.

Allen Hightower, Luther professor of music and director of choral activities, will be installed as the Weston Noble Chair. The Weston Noble Endowed Chair in Music is named in honor of Weston Noble ’43, professor emeritus of music, whose professional service of teaching, directing and conducting at Luther influenced the lives of thousands of students for more than 50 years and whose dedication and service to the college also witnessed to the Gospel. Established by Ervin and Phyllis Johnson, the award recognizes the value of Christian higher education and the quality of the academic and music programs provided by Luther.

Convocation lecturer Umrigar was born in Bombay, India, and lived there until she came to the United States when she was 21. Though she claims to have been an inarticulate child, she remembers writing constantly. “Writing was a way to give wings to the inchoate emotions and feelings inside of me,” Umrigar said. “As a child, I would write ‘anonymous’ poems to my parents whenever I felt wronged by them and then secretly pin them on their closet door. So I learned early on that writing was a good way to get rid of pent-up feelings.”

She has written for the Washington Post and the Boston Globe among other newspapers, and is currently assistant professor of English at Case Western Reserve University where she teaches creative writing and literature.

Umrigar graduated from Bombay University and went on to earn her master’s degree from the Ohio State University and a doctoral degree from Kent State University.