Friday, May 20, 2005

Cliff Becker (1964-2005), Director of Literature, NEA

 Statement of Dana Gioia, Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts


"It is with deepest sorrow that I announce that Cliff Becker, Director of Literature at the National Endowment for the Arts, died on May 17, 2005, of a heart attack.

"We are heartbroken by Cliff's sudden and untimely death. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. All of us at the NEA grieve with them at this great loss.

"Cliff was an important part of the fabric and personality of the Arts Endowment. He was beloved by his colleagues. And he loved them. During his 13 years at the Endowment, he nurtured our Literature programs with an understanding of how literature can open the heart and mind to a new and greater understanding of the world. He was widely respected in the field for his regard not only for the written word, but also for those who write and those who read. He will be missed deeply."  -- Dana Gioia, Chairman, NEA

Cliff Becker began his career at the NEA in 1992 as a program specialist in the Literature Department.  He was named the Director of Literature at the NEA in January 1999, after serving as Acting Director since July 1997. Mr. Becker oversaw the Endowment's grants to literary organizations and individual writers and translators.  He came to the Endowment in 1992 as a literature specialist and managed grants in poetry, publishing, and professional development.  Most recently, he helped develop and launch the NEA's National Poetry Recitation Contest.

He received his B.A. in English from California State University, Long Beach, and his M.A. in American Literature from the University of Maryland, where he taught contemporary literature and writing for three years.

When he was named Director of Literature in 1999, Becker said, "I am honored to serve as the National Endowment for the Arts' eighth Director of Literature.  The novels, stories, and poems produced by this nation's writers tell the world what it is like to be American.  My challenge is to ensure that more of our citizens have access to their contemporary literary heritage."

"Cliff Becker met that challenge and exceeded it," said Chairman Gioia, "We'll miss him - his passion, his humor, and his humanity."

A funeral service will be held Sunday May 22, 2005 at 2 p.m. at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in College Park, Maryland.                   

National Endowment for the Arts
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