Alum donates $1 million for creative writing center

By the fall of 2011, Butler University will have its very own center for creative writing.

Jeremy Efroymson, a Butler graduate and local supporter of the arts, has pledged to donate $1 million to buy the home at 530 W. Hampton Drive, which was the University president’s house from 1965 to 1979.

This is not the first donation the Efroymson family has made to Butler.

In December of 2006 the Efroymson Diversity Center was opened. This center was made possible by Lori Efroymson-Aguilera and the Efroymson Family Fund.

The Efroymson Family Fund was established in 1998 and, according to the Central Indiana Community Foundation website, “has awarded over $60 million in grants to 950 effective nonprofit organizations.”

Dan Barden , Butler English professor, said he and Jeremy Efroymson had talked for years about various improvements they would like to see made in Indianapolis.

Barden said it occurred to him in the midst of one of their conversations, that Efroymson actually had the resources to make some of their visions come to life.

“It wasn’t like I was pitching him ideas,” Barden said. “It was more like we were both just dreaming up things we’d like to do.”

Barden said he eventually just came out and asked Efroymson if he would like to do something for Butler’s Masters of Fine Arts Creative Writing program.

Hilene Flanzbuam, English department chair, said the MFA program is still new, but doing extremely well so the idea to build the creative writing center made sense to Efroymson.

“He just kind of ran with it on his own,” she said. Butler’s MFA program is in it’s third year, and Flanzbaum said she sees the creative writing center doing three primary things to strengthen the program’s already solid foundation and ensure it’s lasting longevity.

First, Flanzbaum said she hopes the center provides a home for the MFA students.

“We hope to be able to offer people their own place to be,” she said. “[MFA students] have been living in the English department, but there has been no room of their own so to speak. [The center] will be sort of a gathering place for them.”

Secondly, Flanzbaum said she hopes it will provide a stable venue for the Visitng Writer’s Series.

“The Visiting Writers Series was always in the same area that we do peer tutoring,” she said. “But peer tutoring has grown, too, so that kind of competition for space will be relieved because now peer tutoring will just be over [in the English department] and the Visiting Writers Series events will be at the center.”

Lastly, Flanzbaum said she would like to see the center act, as Dan Barden put it, “as a portal
to the community.”

Flanzbaum and Barden both discussed the opportunities for outreach that could be available with the center. They said they are hoping to establish workshops of all sorts—literature, writing and editing—to be made open for the public.

Flanzbaum said the center will make Butler, and all it has to offer, a lot more accessible to people.

Barden agreed, and said he hopes more projects like this one are taken up in the future, not just for writing, but for all areas of study. He said the center will serve as a place where “Butler and the community can intersect.”

“I feel like the Efroymson Center for Creative Writing is only the first house that’s going to be out there in the community,” Barden said.

“For me, that border between campus and the community is really important,” he said. “I think a lot of people out there in Indianapolis are afraid to cross it. Sometimes we [at Butler] are afraid to cross it, too.”

“The fact that that house is on the other side of the border means a lot.”