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Spalding alumna donates $1M to honor program founders

The university's School of Writing will be renamed after its two women founders thanks to a special grant.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — This year is the 20th anniversary of Spalding University's Master of Fine Arts Writing Program, and one alumna is helping to celebrate by giving back to her alma mater.

As one of the largest donations from an individual in Spalding University's history, the $1 million grant from Cindy Brady will honor the founders of the program, Sena Jeter Naslund and Karen Mann.

Brady, a Spalding MFA alumna, went on to be a tennis professional after she graduated, coaching elite women players in pro tennis. Now retired, she remains active with the MFA program at Spalding and has even traveled abroad with the program as an alumna. She previously established a scholarship at Spalding for female MFA students writing long-form fiction.

Now, her generous donation will honor Naslund and Mann by renaming the university's Graduate School of Writing to the Sena Jeter Naslund-Karen Mann Graduate School of Writing.

Mann, the author of two novels, said she was grateful for Brady's generosity. 

"I am humbled to be honored in this way for only doing what I have loved for this past 20 years," she said.

Naslund, who served as program director until her retirement in 2017, also thanked Brady. 

“I'd simply like to thank Cindy Brady for her generosity and her high opinion of the Spalding MFA in Writing program that Karen Mann and I and all our mentors and students worked joyfully to create," she said.

The school of writing, established in 2017, includes a flagship MFA, a terminal degree, as well as a one-semester graduate certificate in writing and a Master of Arts in Writing (MAW). 

According to the university, all of the programs are taught on what's called a low-residency model, which means each semester begins with a week-long residency either in Louisville or abroad, followed by an independent study where each student works one on one with a faculty mentor.

Students in any of the programs have several options on what to study, including poetry, creative non-fiction, writing for children and young adults, or writing for TV, film, and the stage.

Spalding University was established in 1814 and has been in downtown Louisville since 1920. It's a historic, private, Catholic institution, and was recognized as the world's first Compassionate University.

Credit: Kriech-Higdon Photography

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