Gift honors Pulitzer Prize-winning author, former Oregon State faculty member Bernard Malamud

April 8, 2024

By Katherine Cusumano

The family of Bernard Malamud, a former Oregon State University faculty member and one of the most influential post-World War II American Jewish writers, has made a gift supporting the university’s writing program, where Malamud developed his literary career.

Malamud taught at Oregon State from 1949 to 1961. During that time, he won his first National Book Award. He later went on to receive a second National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

The $850,000 gift from the estate of Malamud’s son, Paul Malamud, who died in 2022, establishes the first endowed faculty position fund in the School of Writing, Literature and Film in the OSU College of Liberal Arts, adds to an existing scholarship and creates a visiting writer endowment.

Photo of Bernard Malamud

Bernard Malamud at his office desk at Oregon State College. Photo credit: OSU Special Collections & Archives Research Center

“I can think of no better way to honor Bernard Malamud’s legacy at the university than by supporting future generations of writers in the college where he taught,” said Tim Jensen, director of the School of Writing, Literature and Film. “As a faculty member, Malamud helped lay the foundation for our excellent programs; today, our MFA in creative writing is among the most distinguished graduate programs at the university, our majors in literature and creative writing are growing, and we offer superb courses in rhetoric and composition. We are grateful to his family for this generous gift, which will expand SWLF’s positive impact at OSU and beyond.”

In 1949, Malamud, who was born in Brooklyn in 1914 and graduated from City College of New York, was a high school teacher in Brooklyn, a position that didn’t leave much time for creative writing.

At the suggestion of his wife Ann, he sent around 200 letters to colleges across the nation, seeking a teaching position. This produced two offers. One was from Oregon State.

During his time at Oregon State, Malamud published his first novel, “The Natural,” which was later adapted into a film starring Robert Redford. He also won his first National Book Award in 1959 for his short story collection “The Magic Barrel.”

Photo of Bernard and Ann Malamud

Bernard and Ann Malamud. Photo credit: Jill Krementz 

He chronicled his experiences as an Oregon State instructor in his 1961 novel “A New Life.”

“It was an amazingly good time in his writing life,” said his daughter, Janna Malamud Smith, the executor of her brother Paul’s estate. “We always carried, all of us, a love for Oregon.”

In 1961, the family moved to Vermont so Malamud could teach at Bennington College. Six years later he won his second National Book Award as well as the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novel “The Fixer.”

Despite moving to Vermont, Oregon would always be the place that, Smith said, “gave him the emotional space he needed to write much of his best work.”

“We extend our warmest thanks to Janna Malamud Smith and her family for this meaningful gift,” said Shawn L. Scoville, president and CEO of the Oregon State University Foundation. “Bernard Malamud features prominently among the university’s constellation of luminaries, and personally, I am a huge fan. I love to take visitors to our Special Collections to see his papers. They are amazed that we have a draft of ‘The Natural,’ one of the greatest books ever written about baseball, which was published when he was an instructor at OSU. In fact, it was our connection to Malamud that led Vicki and Patrick Stone to establish the endowed Stone Award for Literary Achievement, which has brought writers like Colson Whitehead and Joyce Carol Oates to campus.”